23/Jul/2014 - Last News Update: 22:44

PPS chief criticises quality of police files

Category: Northern Ireland

Published: 2nd Mar 2012 09:01:03

Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions has criticised the quality of police files sent to his office.

Barra McGrory said about half of the files on serious crimes did not have enough information for his staff to decide whether to take a case to court.

Mr McGrory is reviewing the flow of information from the PSNI.

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said internal improvements were being addressed but the two bodies could improve how they worked together.

ACC Hamilton said the category of the files Mr McGrory is talking about affect about 3000 cases

"I accept there are issues we need to address internally with the quality of files in some serious cases, but it's not all cases - the majority of the cases affected are middle band cases," he added.

"There are also logistical issues, not just quality issues with the files and i think the interface between how we work together could be improved.

More than 60,000 files are sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) by the police each year.

Mr McGrory said the issue of the quality of information from the police was one which he had "raised at a very high level with PSNI".

"It is something which has caused the Public Prosecution Service some concern, because there are a very large number of files which arrive with the Public Prosecution Service, in which there is simply not enough information to take a decision to prosecute and those files have to go back," he told the BBC.

"There is a procedure by which we can ask for further information on cases and we do that somewhere in the region of 50% of the case files that we receive from the police.

"That is far more than I would like and it's something we're looking at."

ACC Hamilton said he accepted there was still more work to be done.

"Over the last year since this research was done we have done further work and refined our processes, but yes there is still work to do," he said.

"Together we can improve the process between the police and the PPS logistically. When we look at other jurisdiction and how it works and the way evidence is handled, yes there are lessons to be learned."

Mr McGrory said he thought that there needed to be ways to maintain a degree of independence, but yet work a little bit more closely with the police regarding prosecutions.

ACC Hamilton said alongside the process improvements the relationship between the police and the PPS needed to be addressed.

He said: "There are a whole range of issues here, we need to look at how we treat victims. At the heart of this they are victims of a crime and witness who go through this process and the way they are dealt with throughout the whole judicial process needs to be looked at."

On Thursday, Mr McGrory defended so-called supergrass trials. He denied the verdicts in last month's UVF supergrass case were an embarrassment for the Public Prosecution Service and the police.

The Justice Minister, David Ford, later told MLAs he saw no need for changes to the law in the light of the outcome.

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BBC News, 2012. PPS chief criticises quality of police files [Online] (Updated 2nd Mar 2012)
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