The Crown Prosecution Service and the police are working closely together on a number of initiatives, including reducing the volume of paper in prosecution files, greater use of information technology and co-ordinated training.
May I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's answer, especially the part which referred to reducing paperwork? Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend will say to what extent he sees the new SCOPE system having an effect on reducing paperwork and improving communications between the Crown Prosecution Service and the police?
SCOPE will be extremely effective in improving case tracking and case management. I look forward to the time—one is looking ahead now—when SCOPE will be able to work in harmony with police and court IT systems. It is extremely important that all sections of the criminal justice system, while they each have their independent functions, should be able to work closely and effectively together, and IT has an important part to play in that.
I hope that the Minister will understand nevertheless that for many people involved in cases as witnesses there is a real gap between their understanding of the attitude of the Crown Prosecution Service, which may have a sensible legal basis, and their reaction to being approached by the police to act as a witness in a difficult case. If people involved in very fraught cases are given insufficient information from the CPS and the police, there will be a real misunderstanding of the workings of the justice system.
I entirely agree with what the hon. Lady says, and think that every police officer and Crown prosecutor would also agree. Close working relationships between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are the essence of the fair and efficient prosecution of cases and are essential in order that a witness and a victim may know what is going on, understand the reasons for it and thus have greater confidence in the administration of justice.
My hon. Friend raises an interesting and important point. The idea of placing Crown prosecutors in police stations or what are known as admin support units—the crime support units of police stations—so that they can work closely with the police in the preparation of cases is something that we are thinking about very seriously indeed. We have not reached full agreement but we hope to conduct pilot schemes to explore that possibility. I think that that would do good to both services.