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Fed leads back chief constables’ call for charging powers return

They say charging delays mean officers have to monitor and complete ongoing tasks as investigations remain live

West Midlands, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire Police Federations have backed their chief constables’ calls for custody sergeants to have the power to charge suspects.

The Chief Constables of all three forces this week said charging decisions should be stripped from the Crown Prosecution Service and given back to police in most cases. They said the CPS, which has suffered huge funding cuts, should concentrate only on the most serious cases.

That would mean custody officers would decide whether to charge suspects for crimes such as domestic abuse, harassment, burglary, robbery, theft, knife crime, and violent crime.

Federation Chairs Rich Cooke (West Midlands), Mike Peake (Greater Manchester) and Craig Nicholls (West Yorkshire) said changing the charging rules could free officers from “undue stress” brought about by delays caused by the CPS.

Rich Cooke said: “This is an important intervention by the Chief Constables because the situation has clearly reached crisis point and is having a huge impact on victims, suspects and police officers.

“We have called time and again for our members to be given the time and space to do their jobs properly as that has become increasingly difficult because of long and often unnecessary delays in the legal process.

“If officers were once again given powers to charge suspects it would remove layers of needless bureaucracy and free our frontline officers to tackle crime and better serve their communities.”

Mike Peake said the CPS didn’t have the “capability of making necessary quick time decisions”, which in turn placed an added burden on police officers.

He explained: “Removing police decision-making to charge criminals for certain offences should never have been implemented, and I fully support GMP Chief Constable Stephen Watson on this matter.

“The CPS, which is another public sector organisation seemingly under great pressure, hasn’t got the capability of making necessary quick time decisions that could take criminals off our streets.

“The current delays are having a negative impact on officers’ workloads, as they have a requirement to continue to monitor and complete ongoing tasks as investigations remain live.”

Craig Nicholls described removing some charging decisions from the CPS and handing them back to the police service was an “inevitable step” due to funding cuts.

He added: “It is an unwanted necessity that policing take back charging decisions because of the lack of funding within CPS.

“This is an inevitable step that the police must take to reduce waiting times for simple decisions to be made.

“And this is yet another system that is broken at the hands of the current Government and is causing officers undue stress and concern on their workloads.”

Chief Constables Craig Guildford (West Midlands), Stephen Watson (Greater Manchester) and John Robins (West Yorkshire) told The Guardian newspaper: “The director of public prosecutions needs to give the right back to the police to make charging decisions there and then in far more cases: domestic abuse, harassment, burglary, robbery, theft, knife crime, violent crime.

“We used to do this, officers want it, victims want it, defence lawyers want it, and we are sure the courts do too, but the system keeps saying no. We are trying to help free up CPS and partner agency work to do what they should be doing – prosecuting, not administration.”

They added: ““Where is the evidence to support our call? In March 2015, 16% of crimes were resolved with a charge and/or summons and now it is 5.6%..

“This is not because police have suddenly become less effective. It is because of so called ‘attrition’ where victim disengagement occurs and results in fewer charges due to time delays and a feeling of being unsupported by a seemingly faceless and insensitive system.”

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