Police and lawyers delay prosecutions

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Government lawyers, the police and barristers are all criticised today in a report on the quality of the prosecution service.

The National Audit Office attacks barristers for receiving then returning prosecution cases, causing widespread delays. The report says this happens in three-quarters of cases, and that in a third of these the prosecutions are then handled by barristers described as "of inappropriate quality".

Victims of crime are not being involved in the prosecution of their attackers, especially in cases where charges are dropped, according to the Government watchdog .

It criticises the Crown Prosecution Service for not giving full enough explanations to police to pass on to victims where they decide not to prosecute. Charges do not proceed in 12 per cent of cases, a slight improvement on recent years.

The report says only one third of police files meet both time and quality guidelines.

The NAO attacks the lack of independence of the CPS Inspectorate and the delays and cost in bringing in a new computerised scheme to enable it to keep track of cases. The project, originally expected to cost pounds 8m, will now cost pounds 16m.