Clause 32 - Conduct of prosecutions

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:15 pm ar 5 Chwefror 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland) 12:15, 5 Chwefror 2002

I am extremely grateful for the Minister's help. It was my fault for expecting recommendation 66 to appear after recommendation 65. There might have been a cross-reference in the document to assist those of us who did not compile it, and do not understand the odd order in which the Government have chosen to put the recommendations to mislead those of us who think numerically.

I am grateful to the Minister for directing me to the response, and I see that the recommendation was accepted. It is no surprise that the Government are

''fully aware of the findings of the Glidewell Report.''

The response goes on to say:

''Resources will be provided to enable the DPP(NI) to manage the transition to the new prosecution service.''

Will the Minister explain his assessment of the resource implications? The review has a stab at it, stating:

''In short their broad estimate of the additional annual costs of the proposed arrangements was in the region of £1.5 million to £2 million, with additional start-up costs of about £2 million. This does not take account of any redundancies that might be associated with the process.''

Finally, putting the proposals into context, it states that:

''The DPP's budget for 1998/99 was just over £7.5 million.''

I wonder whether the costs might have been underestimated, and I should be grateful if the Minister would tell us about any further work that the Northern Ireland Office has done on the matter, given that five times as many cases are to be handled. I accept that the cases that the police have been dealing with are at the bottom end of the range, but they have involved issues as serious as burglary, which have profound implications for the accused and the victims. You will

know from your postbag, Mr. Conway, and from the people who come to see you—as they come to see all hon. Members—that whether people are being properly prosecuted for offences of which our constituents have been victims is a question of continuing concern.

A failure of the transfer of functions to the new CPS was that some prosecutions were dropped simply because there were not the necessary resources to make the transfer work. Given our experience in England, will the Minister give us not only the grand assurance that the provisions will work but the Government's assessment of the scale of resources needed, and their thoughts on how the clause will come into force and responsibility will be transferred in its entirety from the police? The Committee is entitled to have answers to those questions before it decides whether the clause should stand part of the Bill.