CPS criticised over inaccurate records

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The Independent Online

A report on the way that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) records the outcome of court cases has revealed more than £2m of taxpayers' money is being misspent each year.

A report on the way that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) records the outcome of court cases has revealed more than £2m of taxpayers' money is being misspent each year.

The findings, published yesterday by the Crown Prosecution Inspectorate, are expected to embarrass the Director of Public Prosecutions,David Calvert-Smith, and the Attorney General, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who have both been involved in delicate negotiations with the Treasury for a big increase in the CPS budget.

The chief inspector, Stephen Wooler, said the results of 100,000 magistrates' court cases and 6,000 crown court cases are being wrongly recorded each year. More than one-third of the incorrect case outcomes failed to identify late guilty pleas where defendants changed their plea on the day of the trial.

The study confirmed fears that CPS records did not give a "true picture" of how the service was performing, said Mr Wooler. If the inspectorate's findings were replicated throughout the UK, the report concluded, £2,318,320 would be wrongly allocated to individual CPS centres.

Mr Wooler warned: "Accuracy is important to ensure that CPS discussions with the Treasury about financial provision proceed on a sound factual basis and that internal distribution of CPS resources is equitable."

In the Government's spending review announced last month the CPS won an extra £71.3m for 2001-02, with increases in line with inflation for the following two years.

The inspectorate's report said that very few CPS staff received any training on how to record the result of cases prosecuted by the service. The rest were left to learn from colleagues "as they went along".