DPP defends rise in abandoned cases

THE Director of Public Prosecutions last night rounded on critics who have criticised her for the growing number of prosecutions being abandoned.

'It is not in anyone's interest - including the victim's - to pursue weak cases which will be lost,' Barbara Mills said. Over two-thirds of cases thrown out by the Crown Prosecution Service were dropped because of lack of evidence.

Mrs Mills, addressing Victim Support's annual meeting in London, was giving her first major speech after she came under fire from both the police and barristers concerned that the numbers of discontinued cases had risen to about 20 per cent a year. Last year 193,000 of the 1.5m cases received were thrown out before trial.

The CPS has launched a review of discontinued cases, calling on its 2,000 lawyers to submit details of cases dropped this month. But that review too has been criticised for not taking into account the views of police and victims. Those most upset when cases are not pursued are the victims of the crime. But yesterday Mrs Mills said the CPS was bound to consider a case from a different viewpoint. It had to balance competing alternatives, including a duty to be fair to defendants.

Mrs Mills said that too many victims of crime go through the court process saying 'never again', and said that had to change.

Meanwhile, the Campaign against Racism and Fascism alleged that the service's treatment of racist attacks was often characterised by inadequate investigation and by the 'inexplicable dropping of charges'.

Mrs Mills rejected this. 'Racial crimes are particularly abhorrent and we take them very seriously,' she said.