Public Prosecutors and Discretion: A Comparative Study

By Julia Fionda | Go to book overview

Preface

THIS book is about a branch of the criminal justice process often neglected in academic research, especially in England and Wales. Some excellent work has been published on the role of public prosecutors, but it is generally the judge, the police officer, and the prison service who have stolen the limelight in criminological debate in recent years. To be fair, in this country this is partly due to the fact that the Crown Prosecutor has only been in existence since 1986. Nevertheless, it is hoped that this study might bridge a small section of that gap. A discussion on any branch of the criminal process could consider a wide variety of practical, procedural, or theoretical issues, all worthy of detailed study. To discuss them all would be impossible in one small volume. So, the scope of this book is restricted to one specific aspect of the prosecutor's role. For those who find this narrowness a point of criticism, apologies.

The selection of the 'sentencing' aspects of the prosecutor's role was not random. While it is a controversial and, to some, an alarming topic for study, the main thesis of the book grew from an increasing realization that in the last decade, in some European jurisdictions, the prosecutor has been a significant figure behind some remarkable penal trends. This influence of the prosecutor has often been referred to by commentators rationalizing such trends in various countries, but has not formed the basis of a discrete and specific inquiry. Furthermore, in England and Wales the development of any facet of the prosecutor's role is a topical issue, as the Crown Prosecution Service has been regularly subjected to the curiosity and critical gaze of government committees, keeping a maternal check on this 'fledgling' branch of the criminal process. The analysis of the influence of the public prosecutor over the sentencing process, and of the increasingly active role of prosecutors in other jurisdictions in administering criminal sanctions, may at least give some food for thought to those faced with steering the Crown Prosecutor in a consistent direction in forthcoming years. Written in the midst of a media panic in England and Wales (and, to some extent, elsewhere) over crime and public order, developments in criminal justice are fast-moving, dynamic, and constantly changing. As far as possible, the factual information in this book is correct up to 1 August 1994.

This study would simply not have been possible without the support and generous assistance of a great many people. In each jurisdiction that I visited, many extremely over-worked practitioners and academics kindly gave their time to talk to me about their work, their ideas, and their

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