In the public interest, or the State's…?

AT the launch of the new Public Prosecution Service the other day, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith said that the Government was intent on building a justice system in which everyone could feel confidence. Yet the new service is as unaccountable as the old one in one respect – it does not have to state why any prosecution is dropped. In the past, when the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped a case “in the public interest” for no given reason, it sometimes left suspicions that the State was protecting an agent or informer who had been involved in a serious crime.

Chris Thornton wrote:

But the Committee on the Administration of Justice, the Belfast human rights watchdog, accused the Service of skirting around a key proposal from the Criminal Justice Review, which recommended the new prosecution system five years ago.

The review said that in the interests of openness, prosecutors should “should seek to give as full an explanation as is possible” when there are concerns about why a case has been dropped. The recommendation was made because past cases had caused public disquiet.

Aideen Gilmore of CAJ said the new Prosecution Service is “still maintaining the policy of not giving reasons for not proceeding with prosecutions”.

“This is a key failure in not making the system more accountable. They have missed the opportunity of addressing one of the practices that goes right to the heart of the confidence of the community.”