LAND FIT FOR CRIMINALS: Cuts have reduced prosecutions drastically says MP Steve McCabe
HUNDREDS of thousands of criminals have potentially evaded justice because overstretched police forces do not have the resources to properly investigate crimes senior police have admitted.
The admission from the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) came after it emerged there were 511,090 criminal prosecutions across the country in the 12 months from September 2017 to 2018, a "staggering" drop of 50 per cent on the 1,051,047 over than the same period in 2007/08.
This is despite 2018 seeing rises across the country in murders, stabbings, violent crime and burglaries.
The NPCC admitted stretched police forces were bringing less charges eight years on from the start of austerity and criminals were often getting off with softer punishments available to be given by police outside of court.
The organisation which represents chief constables across the country blamed the dramatic drop on cuts to police budgets that have seen around 21,000 less officers on the UK's streets since 2010.
CUTS: The NPCC says cuts in officers means less investigations and charges
An NPCC Spokesman said: “Fewer officers and staff are able to do less policing. We are seeing fewer criminal charges as a result.
“Officers prioritise investigations based on assessments of risk and harm.
"We use alternatives to prevent further offending like conditional cautions, community resolutions and restorative justice.”
The figures were obtained by Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak, who asked a series of written Parliamentary questions after becoming concerned about the number of cases in Birmingham being dropped.
Mr McCabe said: “It is clear that the swingeing cuts to our justice system are having a real effect on the number of prosecutions the CPS is able to successfully complete.
"In the last year there have been half a million less prosecutions compared to the same period in 2008.
"This staggering 50 per cent reduction in the number of completed prosecutions comes at a time when reported crime is at an all-time high, how can this be right?
“The Tories are pushing our law and order system to the brink of collapse.
"We have police forces across the country saying publicly they do not have the resources to properly police our streets and when there is an arrest our justice system is so overstretched the likelihood of it going to court is slim.
"It’s a criminal’s world and the government is letting this happen.”
BLAME: The CPS led by Max Hill QC says police forces are to blame for the drop
The CPS has also lost nearly a third of its staff due to budget cuts.
Mr McCabe added: "In the West Midlands the number of people working on cases has more than halved. No wonder the number of prosecutions has reduced so dramatically."
Bethan Jones, a constituency case worker for Mr McCabe said: "We’ve been told anecdotally that cases were being dropped (in Birmingham) because the CPS did not serve evidence to the defence, as just one example.
"We were told this was because of cuts in staffing and budgets affecting the CPS’s ability to complete prosecutions."
However, the CPS hit back and laid the blame at the door of police forces.
A CPS spokesman denied its own drop in resources was responsible and said it was down to police forces to request prosecutions and if they did not apply for them or deliver strong enough cases, there was little it could do.
He said: "Our strong determination to bring offenders to justice has not changed over this period.
"We will bring each and every case to court where it meets the evidential test and is in the public interest – but we can only consider cases which are given to us by the police."
However, he said overall numbers may have dropped because of police taking more responsibility for driving offences.
He added: "Prosecutions have risen for more serious cases such as homicide, fraud and forgery and sexual offences while prosecution of minor motoring matters has fallen by 74 per cent as responsibility for many of these cases has transferred to the police.”
Police do not refer all reports of crime to the CPS, with many being dealt with by cautions or other measures.
Since 2008, there has been a 5 per cent increase in homicide, a 17 per cent increase in fraud and forgery and a 28 per cent increase in sexual offences prosecutions by the CPS.
During the same period, CPS prosecution of minor motoring cases has fallen by 74 per cent.
The cuts has seen several court buildings sold off since 2010, but the Ministry of Justice said "court closures are not linked to a fall in prosecutions."
A Home Office spokesman denied Government responsibility.
He said: “The number of prosecutions is not a direct reflection of police activity. But we know that crime is changing and becoming increasingly complex, which is why we have provided a strong and comprehensive £13 billion funding settlement to ensure the police have the resources they need to carry out their vital work."
He said it was down to chief constables and police and crime commissioners how the money is used.