The Departments for which the Attorney-General is responsible have no regulatory functions to which the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 applies. However, the Crown Prosecution Service continues to work with the police to reduce paperwork and administrative burdens in the prosecution of crime.
Rational deregulation is to be welcomed, but has not the ideologically inspired deregulation of the Crown Prosecution Service left it in a sad position? Morale is at rock bottom and public confidence is at a low ebb. The CPS is thought to pursue trivial offenders when it has a strong case, whereas serious offenders are allowed to run free if the case is weaker. Is not the result of the CPS's conviction-at-all-costs policy that trivial offenders are convicted, whereas many serious offenders get away with it?
The hon. Gentleman's criticisms are entirely misplaced. He talks about morale, but if he and certain of his hon. Friends visited the CPS more often and looked at what it does, they would launch into ill-judged criticism less frequently. The best way in which to help the CPS with morale is to stop criticising it unfairly.
I appeared in front of Mr. Justice Potts in Sheffield for three days between 17 and 19 December. He heard arguments that the case amounted to an abuse of process, in part based on the lapse of time since the events took place. After he had heard all the arguments, he concluded that there was no abuse of process and that the case was fit to proceed. The case came to an end last week only because a jury found that the defendant's mental state, which had declined rapidly in the past six months, did not allow him to be tried. The principle, however, is plain: if there is evidence—and there was in that case—and if the defendant is fit to be tried, we will prosecute firmly and resolutely.