Negotiating Domestic Violence: Police, Criminal Justice, and Victims

By Carolyn Hoyle | Go to book overview

6
Understanding Prosecution Decisions

When the police make an arrest the suspect is taken to the police station so that detention can be authorized by the custody officer.1 Detention in custody allows the arresting officer, and sometimes his colleagues, to interview the suspect. When the officer believes that he has sufficient evidence to prosecute he is supposed to stop the investigatory process2 and put the facts before the custody officer, who can then decide whether or not to charge. However, even when the custody officer believes that he has sufficient evidence to charge the suspect with the alleged offence there are a number of choices: he can decide to caution him; he can release him with no further action; he can delay the decision either by releasing the suspect on police bail to return at a later date or by reporting the suspect with a view to a summons; or he can charge the suspect. If the decision is to charge, the case file is sent to the Crown Prosecution Service where a prosecutor must decide whether or not to continue with the prosecution.3

An original intention of this study was to interview custody officers about their decisions, but during the pilot study it was decided not to continue with this part of the fieldwork. This decision was reached in part because custody officers, while easy to

____________________
1
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) created this new role for the police. Custody officers need to hold at least the rank of a sergeant. They are responsible for suspects' rights and welfare whilst in custody. The custody officer has to decide whether or not to detain a suspect and, if so, on what grounds (see Sanders and Young 1994 for a discussion of the extent to which they are in fact responsible for these decisions).
2
PACE Code of Practice C, para. 11.4.
3
The Crown Prosecution Service, set up in 1986 by the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, is an independent prosecuting authority headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions and responsible for the prosecution of most of the criminal offences brought by the police in England and Wales.

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