First, I would like to pay tribute to my hon. and learned Friend Edward Timpson for his work as Solicitor General. From that work, he will know the significant amount of funding in the criminal justice system to help improve waiting times for victims. Both the Attorney General and I have seen that at first hand in our visits to regional Crown Prosecution Service areas.
I thank the Solicitor General for his answer. Further to the point raised by Karl Turner, in the first three quarters of 2022 there have been 235 ineffective Crown court trials caused by prosecution absence—the highest annual total since 2014—compared with just 19 in 2019. The recent uplift to defence fees has meant there is now more money in defending than in prosecuting, and consequently the CPS is struggling to find enough prosecutors for trials. What timescales is my hon. and learned Friend working to in order to address this situation?
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for raising this point. Of course, I recognise the importance of ensuring that all those who work in the criminal justice system—both defence and prosecution—are paid and rewarded appropriately. He will have heard my answer earlier, and it is right that the Treasury has agreed to consider the CPS funding position. Discussions are ongoing, and I know that he will keep pressing.
The police are doing an excellent job in Broadland. They have just opened a new response centre at Postwick, improving response times and housing some of the many additional officers that this Government have provided. The CPS is the next line in the criminal justice journey. The CPS inspectorate undertook a report on local provision in March 2022. Can my hon. and learned Friend provide an update to the House on the performance since that date?
I recognise my hon. Friend’s expertise and interest in this matter. The inspection report for the east of England praised the quality of the work in the area, and the latest data suggests that performance continues to be strong. The area is now making all crime charging decisions more quickly than it did previously. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that, in the face of the backlog, the conviction rate for the CPS in his region remains reassuringly high at 85%.