Orders of the Day — Crown Prosecution Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:49 pm on 12th January 1995.

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Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion 7:49 pm, 12th January 1995

I shall give way to the hon. Lady in a moment, but I would like to complete this stage of what I have to say because it might assist comprehension.

At some appropriate stage, either immediately before a defendant pleads to the indictment or at the end of the Crown case, or at any stage prior to a jury returning its verdict, the prosecution may decide to accept some plea to a charge lesser than the original one. That is not at all unusual. The decision may be based on the fact that the evidence on paper has not been borne out by the evidence given live by witnesses in the witness box, on oath. After that evidence has been tested in cross-examination and subjected to scrutiny and, possibly, witnesses have been called for the defence, it may become apparent that the view initially formed by the Crown is no longer borne out and that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to seek to maintain a case that is no longer supported by the evidence. The role of the prosecutor in such circumstances—whether that prosecutor be a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer in a magistrates court or a junior or leading counsel in the Crown court—is set out in section 9 of the code.

In those circumstances, the lawyer concerned should accept the defendant's pleas only if he concludes that the court will be able to pass a sentence that matches the seriousness of the offence. In no circumstances must the Crown accept a plea merely for reasons of convenience.