Why nurses are different

I read with some surprise the comments of the Solicitor General, Lord Falconer, in response to the Bar's criticisms of Government plans to use non-lawyers to prosecute criminal cases (The Lawyer, 7 October). The Law Society supports the Bar's views.

The Government and Lord Falconer would have the public think that the proposal is to use non-lawyers to prosecute merely straightforward driving offences.

This is not the case. The recommendations in the Narey Report show clearly that it is intended that up to two thirds of all cases will be reviewed and prosecuted by non-lawyers.

The intention is to use them in every case where a guilty plea is indicated. This, of course, will include serious and complex cases.

To use the analogy of "a nurse dressing a wound" with the use of non-lawyers to prosecute cases is, to use Lord Falconer's term, "absurd". As members of a professional body, nurses work within an ethical framework and maintain professional standards of practice.

By contrast, the non-lawyers in the CPS may or may not have experienced suitable training, may or may not have undertaken any examinations in the criminal law field, and will owe no duty to anyone except their employer. There will be no independent disciplinary body to set and monitor their ethical and professional standards of behaviour.

Public confidence is maintained by the fact that both nursing staff and lawyers must be qualified before undertaking the responsibilities of their professions. That confidence cannot be guaranteed if the Government's proposals are implemented.

Robert Roscoe


Criminal law committee

The Law Society

London WC2.