Even a cursory glance through the latest official CPS report on ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’ (note that there is no mention of violence against men or boys in that title!), issued on 10 October 2017, reveals just how target-driven our justice system has become in recent years (basic common sense tells us pre-set targets and justice are mutually incompatible). In fact, the CPS report celebrates rising prosecution and conviction statistics. For example, it highlights that successful prosecutions of sexual offences (including rape and child abuse) have increased by 14 percent since 2015-2016. Needless to note, there is absolutely no reference to wrongful convictions or to people currently spending time at Her Majesty's Pleasure while maintaining innocence.
Of course, target-driven justice was always fated to produce miscarriages of justice. Ideological dogma (and no doubt hopes of promotion) places pressure on police officers to ‘cut corners’ and to abandon traditional even-handed policing methods of following up inquiries wherever they may lead, even if evidence emerges that undermines the accuser’s account of events.
Since my own 672 day ordeal finished in 2014, I have become aware of other similar cases where the lies of fraudsters and fantasists have gone unchallenged and not investigated by the police. There are people whom I believe to be innocent who have been convicted and imprisoned, in some cases for years, and had their lives destroyed at the altar of the cruel dogma of set targets. Responsibility for these appalling miscarriages of justice must be shared by the police and CPS because their basic procedures and practices have become fundamentally flawed and unbalanced due to fatuous nonsense such as the mantra ‘you will be believed’, regardless of how ludicrous or obviously bogus such allegations may be.
However welcome a genuine review of current prosecutions may be, it is far from being sufficient. The perverse practices now being exposed – such as failing to disclose vital evidence or refusing to interview potential witnesses because their evidence might assist the defence – must end now. (I can't believe that in any fair, just society I am forced to write this statement).
All target-based approaches to prosecutions must also be ended because constant demands by the CPS (and its cheerleaders in the media and in radical pressure groups) have simply encouraged police and prosecutors to abandon the basic rules of our justice system in order to pursue convictions at any cost. The presumption of innocence, as well as robust, impartial detective work by police officers, needs to be returned to the heart of our criminal justice system.
|DPP Alison Saunders|
It is vital to acknowledge that misconduct by police and prosecutors that could, and does, lead to miscarriages of justice hasn’t just started in the past few weeks… it has been embedded in our unbalanced justice system for years, exacerbated, of course, by 'the Savile effect'. It’s only now that the general public is becoming aware of the sheer wickedness which has been going on behind closed doors for far too long. Justice demands a root and branch reform of both police practices and the misguided, ideologically motivated policies of the CPS, which have led directly to the present crisis.