Labour announces ‘charging commission’ to increase crime-solving

August 08, 2023 12:08 PM AEST | By PAMEDIA
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Labour has launched an expert commission tasked with drawing up reforms to help the party increase the number of crimes solved if it wins the next election.

The panel will devise recommendations for key areas, including improvements to digital forensics to help police crack more cases and cutting red tape in joint-working arrangements between forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Chaired by former victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird, the so-called Charging Commission will aim to identify reasons for the “woeful” decline in successful law enforcement, Labour said.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Dame Vera Baird DBE would chair the commission, Labour has said (John Stillwell/PA)

The party pointed to recent Home Office divs showing that in the year to March 2023, there were “evidential difficulties” with 2,435,273 out of 5,480,135 recorded crimes.

Some 9.2% of crimes resulted in a charge or out-of-court action – down from 24.7% in the year ending March 2015 – along with a further 0.6% being dealt with through diversionary activity, according to the data.

Labour said its commission includes former chief constable Stephen Otter, former chief crown prosecutor Drusilla Sharpling and West Yorkshire Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Alison Lowe.

The panel is being set up to make proposals which the party will look to implementing as policy if it wins the next general election, with its first meeting in September.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “It should be unthinkable for so many more crimes to face no consequences whatsoever, but that is the shameful reality after 13 Conservative years.

“This expert Commission will help us to deliver on our pledge to make Britain safer.”

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said it was time to replace the “blame game” between the police and the CPS over charge rates with cooperation to punish criminals and protect communities.

“I am delighted that such experienced, dedicated public servants have agreed to join us in that work, and I look forward to seeing the contribution they will make to our long-term mission on crime,” she said.

Dame Vera said: “The woeful collapse in charging rates has exposed victims of crime to intolerable anguish and uncertainty, and we are now seeing record numbers of victims giving up on the criminal justice system altogether.

“Investigations and prosecutions for serious crimes like rape are in a dismal state, the criminal justice system is in chaos, and things simply cannot stay as they are.

“This Commission will bring together voices from across policing and prosecutions to forensically investigate the causes of this charging crisis, and set out robust recommendations for recovery.”

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Labour are soft on crime and soft on criminals. Keir Starmer has consistently whipped his MPs to vote against stronger sentences for violent offenders and rapists.

“Where Labour are in power, crime is over a third higher than Conservative-run areas, and as director of prosecutions Keir Starmer oversaw a huge drop in the number of sexual offences that were prosecuted.

“Meanwhile, we have cut the re-offending rate to lower than when Labour left office, increased the conviction rate by 15%, doubled charge rates for rape, and introduced tougher sentences for the worst offenders.”


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