Police Chiefs Call for Trials to Focus on Victims of Crime; CAMPAIGN: Ministers 'Should End Lawyers' Exploitation for Defendants'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

Police Chiefs Call for Trials to Focus on Victims of Crime; CAMPAIGN: Ministers 'Should End Lawyers' Exploitation for Defendants'


POLICE officers have called for a radical overhaul of the criminal trial system, condemning the current set-up as an arcane bureaucracy easily exploited by defence lawyers.

Thames Valley Chief Constable Sir Charles Pollard, leading the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) campaign Search for Truth, said ministers must ensure the law shifts from protecting defendants' rights to focus on victims instead.

Most of the ideas raised by the Acpo measures were suggested by Lord Justice Auld in his review of the criminal courts commissioned by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, and published last October.

The campaign's proposals include:

Giving prosecutors a right of appeal in serious cases where rulings result in cases collapsing;

Making defence lawyers reveal information before a trial in the same way that prosecutors must disclose the contents of their case;

Re-designing courtrooms to keep prosecution witnesses and victims separate from defendants and allowing evidence to be given remotely - for example, by video.

Mike Lewis, Assistant Chief Constable South Wales Police THE police service, both in Wales and England, has seen the opportunities the Auld Report provides to actually make a difference in the criminal justice system.

We recognise the changes it has been undergoing in recent times and a lot of progress has been made in Wales between the judiciary, courts and the police.

But this gives the opportunity to work out the areas of the system that are not resulting in justice - particularly for victims and witnesses.

In our view, a lot still needs to be done.

The key issue for us is the way in which witnesses and victims are dealt with and the way in which the pre-trial system works.

Witnesses and the Crown Prosecution Service have to disclose before trial what the police find during their investigation, which is quite proper. But the law, as it currently stands, we feel is not being fairly actioned by the courts.

There is a similar requirement of the defence to disclose the findings, but judges are not insisting the defence meet this requirement as they are with the prosecution.

At the moment the rules are out of balance in favour of the defendant, rather than the victim or witness.

It's not about the police - we carry out the investigations and want to find out what happened, who is responsible for it and how we can call those responsible to account.

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