Fall in cases reaching crown court blamed on cuts to police resources
Police cuts have been blamed for a slump in crimes prosecuted at the crown court in Suffolk.
Between April and June, 151 cases reached crown court, compared to 218 in the same period of 2014.
The decline, seen in most areas of the country, with just two of 48 justice boards dealing with more cases than four years ago, has been put down to lack of police needed to complete investigations to a standard required by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The most common type of offence dealt in the Suffolk area was violence – 27% of all crown court appearances – according to the Ministry of Justice figures.
Ian Kelcey, Law Society solicitor, said police lacked manpower to put together information needed by the CPS, and that some cases had not been pursued because it was “too much trouble”.
Assistant Met Commissioner Martin Hewitt said police were spending more time analysing digital material and obtaining it from third parties for disclosure.
Rick Muir, of the Police Foundation think-tank, said a rise in recorded crime against a fall in court trials indicated police were clearing up fewer cases.
Although sex crime almost doubled since 2014 in England and Wales, court cases dropped 52%.
In Suffolk, sex offence cases were tried nine times – 14 fewer than four years earlier.
Mr Muir said they took longer to investigate due to complexity, but that the trend was also down to having fewer police officers.
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: “It would be ridiculous to assume more resources wouldn’t help, but investment in technology and focus on victims’ needs are as key to the future of our justice system.
“Resources would be helpful but we have to look behind the figures.
“Sexual offence cases can be complex and go back years. Some victims don’t wish to prosecute, but if they don’t have confidence in the system, that’s a problem.
“I hope investment in body worn cameras will also help save time, paperwork and duplication in certain cases.”
The Home Office said police had resources to carry out the work and had received a comprehensive funding settlement, increasing investment by more than £460m.
A spokesman said: “Changes in charge rates are likely to be driven by improved crime recording by the police, and forces taking on more complex crimes, which take longer to receive an outcome, such as domestic abuse or sexual offences.”