Police chief: Judge 'convenience' prioritised over victim welfare

Derbyshire's outgoing police chief says courts and justice officials often prioritise "the conveniences of judges" and a "smooth" prosecution over victim welfare.

Peter Goodman (pictured), Derbyshire’s police chief, who has served in several police forces over the last 32 years, is retiring at the end of July after three years.

In a police and crime panel meeting yesterday (Thursday, June 25), hosted by Derbyshire County Council, Mr Goodman took aim at the Crown Prosecution Service for delays officers face seeking urgent advice on potential charges for criminals.

He also raised concerns with the lack of a priority given to the victims themselves.

During the virtual public meeting he said: “I can speak with a bit of freedom now in a way that maybe some of my colleagues can’t because the consequences for me at this point in my service are pretty minimal.

“It is not just officers on the frontline waiting for a long time on the phone to get advice.  Unless a key case reaches a certain threshold of seriousness or vulnerability you can’t even get advice on the phone at the moment.

“You have to wait and send off your file and wait for a response from the CPS which often takes between a month and six weeks and that includes non high risk domestic violence.

“I don’t blame the chief crown prosecutor, who is doing the best job that she possibly can, it comes down to two issues, if I am frank: One is it is a structural issue, people talk about a criminal justice system but when the CPS are set a performance regime which is all about smoothing out the prosecution process and nothing about putting victims first then you can understand how difficult it is for us to align our priorities with that.

“Often the priorities of the crown court are to meet the conveniences of judges and again there is little correlation between that and our attempts to bring people to justice quickly and effectively and to protect victims in the best possible way.

“People talk about a criminal justice system. It is a criminal justice collective which is pointing in different directions which really doesn’t help us at all. Firstly it is a structural issue and secondly yes it is also a financial issue.

“I remember when the CPS was created many, many years ago and it was underfunded from the outset and I have to say during the course of the last 10 years that has been magnified through austerity. 

“As all of us have had to shrink our organisations, so the CPS have. Their decision to move from a local CPS to a regional and national setup was based purely on financial issues rather than any kind of deliberate management or structural decision. 

“I would welcome a return of a Derbyshire CPS with our own chief crown prosecutor but given the ravages of Covid-19 on the economy during the course of the last three months I very much doubt any government of any colour would be able to find the money to do that at the present time.”

Janine Smith, chief crown prosecutor for CPS East Midlands, said: “Our prosecutors care passionately about the victims and witnesses whose lives their work touches. 

“Our charging arrangements have been developed and agreed in conjunction with police forces nationally and in our region. 

“We are more than willing to discuss Mr Goodman’s concerns in a professional constructive manner. 

“We want to reassure the communities we serve that the CPS is working hard to provide the best possible service.”

The Ministry of Justice did not want to comment.

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