The outlines one of its aims as reducing

The Criminal Justice System (CJS) in the UK is comprised of
a number of institutions and agencies of which are involved in the
administration of justice in the UK. These are; the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) this
is responsible for the courts, prisons, probation services and attendance
centres. It highlights one of its main aims as a service that reforms
offenders. The Home Office is the department that focuses on immigration and
passports, drugs policy, crime, fire, counter-terrorism and police. This
department outlines one of its aims as reducing and preventing crime. The Crown
Prosecution Service (CPS) is tasked with prosecuting criminal cases that have
been investigated by the police and details their duty as to make sure the
right person is prosecuted for the right offence. The Attorney General is the
chief legal advisor to the crown and oversees the Law offices, the current role
holder is Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP. Finally, the Police are tasked with
detecting and rewarding crime of which they have a statutory responsibility. It
is seen as very important for each of these institutions and agencies to
achieve justice for suspects, the public and victims of crime.

The Police have a duty to protect the public via prevention
of crime and it’s important that they exercise their powers of investigation in
a fair and just way. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 19841
was implemented in order to balance out the police’s powers with the protection
of the public’s rights. This is due to frequent miscarriages of justice and the
abuse of powers by the Police. An example is the Birmingham Six, a high profile
case that led six men to be sentenced to life imprisonment following their
false convictions in relation to the Birmingham pub bombings. They were subject
to beatings and burnt with cigarettes as well as long interrogations for
sometimes up to 12 hours whilst in custody of the West Midlands Police.

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Due to these types of cases, it was in the public’s view that
the Police should be held accountable for their actions which lead to PACE
being implemented. The Act made the methods of the Police more transparent and
allowed the public to understand more clearly their rights if they themselves
were arrested via the codes of practise. The powers the Police now possess are
to use reasonable force when arresting a suspect where it is absolutely necessary,
that force must therefore must be reasonable and proportionate. They also have
a responsibility to respect the rights and freedoms of an individual contained
within the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the rights contained
in the Human Rights Act 19982.
Article 8 of the ECHR provides that an individual has the right to not suffer
ill-treatment i.e. physical justice, meaning that the Police are not allowed to
be discriminatory or excessive when exercising their powers.

This however doesn’t mean that the Police do act in a way
that is fair and just. Stop and Searches for example are proof that when exercising
their powers, the Police can still be discriminatory. According to the
Metropolitan Police’s Stop and Search dashboard, in August 2017, 4.5 out of
every 1’000 people in a search volume of 5’774 people was Black. This compared to
only 0.9 people within a search volume of 4’313 White people in the same month3.
This shows that more Black people within the Greater London area are being stop
and searched than White people, this is especially alarming as according to the
2011 Census there are over 4.8 million White people comprising of 59.79% of the
total population in comparison to just over 1 million Black people comprising
just 13.32% of the total population. This shows that Black people are clearly
being disproportionately targeted by the Met Police.

In an article written by the Guardian, Black people are
eight times more likely to be Stop and Searched than White people. The figures
show that Stop and Searches fell by 21% in 2017 with stops of White people
falling 28% in that time but stops of Black people fell by just 11%. In the
same article the home secretary Amber Rudd stated “no one should be stopped
because of their race or ethnicity. Chief constables will need to explain
disparities in their force areas, because if stop and search powers are misused
it is counterproductive and damages confidence in policing.” This shows the
clear racial disparity with Stop and Searches despite the Governments best
attempts to close this gap4.

Another concern with regards to the police is deaths in
police custody or immediately following police custody. After the death of
Stephen Lawrence in 1993 and the investigation that followed, the Metropolitan
Police were denounced as being institutionally racist In the Macpherson Report.
In an article by the Independent, Isabella Sankey, the policy director at
Liberty, said that statistics showed ethnic minorities were still being
disproportionately targeted 16 years after the Macpherson Report and that “while
such racial bias continues, distrust between the police and the communities
they are supposed to serve will only grow”5.

A report from Inquest, a charity that investigates deaths in
police custody, stated that over 1’500 people have died in or following police
custody since 1990. The institute of Race Relations (IRR) then reported that of
this number, more than 500 of those were Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME)
individuals of which many were vulnerable victims. This is clearly disproportionate
as black people of which are 3% of the total population of the UK account for
one third of all deaths in police custody. Sean Rigg, a black British musician who
suffered from paranoid schizophrenia died in Police custody in 2008. This was
widely seen as an injustice due to his vulnerable nature and the way he was
treated by the police. He suffered a cardiac arrest outside Brixton police
station after being left for 10 minutes handcuffed and unmonitored. The death
of Sean Rigg like many others shows the injustices that can still be seen from
the police today, however the police do not receive training to deal with situations
involving mental health problems due to a lack of funding from the government
and therefore cannot be seen as fully responsible in these types of situations.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is tasked with
prosecuting criminal cases that have been investigated by the police. It is an independent
agency that makes its decisions independently from the police and the
government. Their mission statement as outline on their website is “to deliver
justice through the independent and effective prosecution of crime, fostering a
culture of excellence by supporting and inspiring each other to be the best we
can”. They advise the police in the majority of criminal cases on charges to
instigate proceedings and to prepare cases for court. Prior to when the CPS was
formed in 1986 the police were responsible for bringing their own criminal
proceedings but were not seen as independent. This is due to the fact that that
the police were investigating and prosecuting their own cases which essentially
allows them to do what they please in order to gain a conviction. This wasn’t seen
as independent because of the obvious conflict of interest this had caused.

For the CPS to decide on whether they bring criminal
proceedings or not they must consider two tests, the evidential and the public
interest. The evidential test involves the CPS working out whether a case has
enough evidence to support their attempt at a conviction. If a case has
insufficient or non-credible evidence the CPS will not take on the case, this
is because they have limited funding from the government so can only take on
cases they believe have a real chance of conviction. Even if a case has enough
evidence to suffice them taking it on, they still may however choose not to do
so due to whether they believe it’s in the interest of the public to prosecute.
This therefore means that the majority of cases the CPS take on, they succeed
by getting the charging decision correct. The public interest test considers
various factors that includes how serious the offence was, and the impact it
had on the community. If a person has committed a serious offence for example a
hate crime, the CPS will charge that person so as to ensure justice.

As so few cases are discontinued, the CPS could be argued to
be an effective department of governance in the UK. However, there are still a
significant number of cases which are discontinued each year. In 2016/17 the
CPS discontinued 47’521 cases just before they got to trial, this accounts for
9.5% of all cases taken during that time which isn’t a lot in terms of all the
case outcomes that occurred but is still nearly 50’000 cases that they were
unable to continue to pursue6.
The former Labour peer Lord Janner had various historical sexual abuse
allegations made against himself as far back as in 1991. Shortly before his
death in 2015, the CPS although having sufficient evidence that would have
warranted a criminal trial, decided against pursuing the case in the courts7.
This is due to the severity of his health and therefore inability to reoffend
in the future. This decision was seen as controversial due to the severity of
the offences he is alleged to have committed as even with his health being so
poor, justice in the eyes of the victims would have not been served. The decision
not to charge Lord Janner however was overturned due to the rights of the victims
to appeal the said decision. This ensured some justice although he died before
the trial could commence.

In defence of the CPS, due to budget cuts of 25% since 2010 they’ve
had to cut the number of staff by 2’400. This inadvertently means that in order
to continue to meet prosecution targets, the institution would have to cut
corners and mistakes would become more apparent which in turn could lead to
miscarriages of justice. In an article by the BBC, Jonathan Elystan Rees, a
member of the Criminal Bar Association in Wales said that CPS staff were “operating
with one hand tied behind their back at the moment”8
evidently due to the lack of funding they have received. Also, during a victim
and witness satisfaction survey in 2015 the overall satisfaction with the CPS
was higher amongst witnesses with 74% saying they were at least fairly
satisfied with 64% of victims saying they were at least fairly satisfied. 11%
of the victims however were very dissatisfied which could be due to the
apparent cuts that had to be made.

Within the CJS, the courts play a very important role. Once
a decision has been made to prosecute, proceedings will begin to take place in
the criminal courts. Even if a person is being charged with an indictable
offence i.e. s.18 GBH, they will appear in front of the magistrates court where
the charges will be read out. The judiciary are seen as declarative i.e. they
simply state the law and apply it to the case in hand, but in reality judges
are quite the opposite due to the doctrines of statutory interpretation and
judicial interpretation whereby they actually create new law through case law
and such. The majority of cases will be heard by lay magistrates however of
whom are unpaid and do not have legal qualifications although are given
training. The reason for this is because it is seen as a means of achieving
justice due to a person being tried by their own peers.

The lay magistrates sit on a bench of 3 so as to get a
balanced decision as well as assistance from legal advisors, this leads to very
few appeals against decisions so it appears to work successfully. Nevertheless,
Lay magistrates are supposed to be representative of society in order to make
the process more just, however according to statistics by the ADD, 80% of all
lay magistrates are over 50, with 54% being female and just 11% being BAME.
This shows clear disparity between their intentions and their actions due to 80%
of the magistracy being over 50 which is clearly disproportionate to society. The
problem they have however is the rigorous selection process whereby it’s very
hard to become a lay magistrate if you’re below the age of 25 or an ethnic
minority for example with less than 1% under the age of 30.

Juries on the other-hand are resided in the crown court whereby
it’s their decision as to whether the defendant is guilty or not. Similarly to lay
magistrates, juries are seen as a means of justice due to them also supposed to
be representative of society as they are randomly selected from the electoral
register so there is no bias as to who is picked. The problems with this
however, also similarly to lay magistrates is the fact that due to this
particular selection process, anyone on the register could be picked meaning
that the jury could be all white males or all females. This on a case by case
basis could also be seen as unjust as the particular jury could potentially be
bias if they are not proportionate of society and therefore do not represent
the person on trial. Also due to the particular nature of a case i.e. if it is
a high profile case, the jury could have a bias due to outside influences such
as the media, and if a case involves complicated law that the jury may struggle
to understand they may struggle thereby wasting time and subsequently money.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was setup in
1995 to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice independently and impartially.
The most common cases involve individuals of whom have spent a considerate
amount of time in prison before their cases were eventually quashed such as the
Birmingham 6 who each spent nearly 17 years in prison. This however could be
seen as an abuse of their power due to the disconnect it creates with the
public as trust levels in relation to the confidence they have of the police and
the CJS at doing their job has lessened. Of the 635 cases that were referred to
the Court of Appeal, 431 led to successful appeals, leaving the remaining 204
cases referred to the court unsuccessful. This can be seen as a miscarriages of
justice due to the sheer volume of unsuccessful cases.

The case of Victor Nealon is proof of such. In 1997 he was
wrongly convicted of attempted rape, and was given a discretionary life
sentence with no parole due to him refusing to admit his guilt. He served 17
years in Wakefield prison before being released with nowhere to stay and £46. His
conviction was quashed due to new DNA evidence which the MOJ thought did not
show reasonable enough doubt that he didn’t commit the offence. Because of
this, he was subsequently denied legal aid in 2014 and was demanded to pay the
£2’500 DNA analysis. The CCRC had already previously rejected his application
twice and responding by stating the organisation “could and should have
identified there were forensic opportunities that had not been explored”9

To some extent I believe the criminal justice system CJS
does achieve justice. This is due to the various institutions and agencies
within the CJS that exist in order to provide justice for victims and the
accused, for example the CPS. There are many arguments to suggest that the CJS
is achieving justice well with over 390’000 guilty pleas between 2016 and 2017
from the CPS as well as 74% of witnesses and 64% of victims feeling at least
fairly satisfied with the agencies handling of their cases. To some extent on
the contrary however, there are many flaws with the CJS in the UK that have and
will continue to create miscarriages of justice without reform from the police
to the MOJ. The agencies themselves are generally impartial although it is
clear that other parts of the CJS are in dire need of reform due to
miscarriages of justice having took place i.e. the CCRC, with the case of
Victor Nealon. In late 2017, 11 recommendations were published by the home
office into the way people were treated when in and immediately after police
custody, it provided more support for more vulnerable people, this may have
saved Sean Riggs life had these recommendations been published sooner.

In conclusion, with the many flaws that the CJS has, it does
in more cases than not achieved justice via the procedures and processes which
exist in order to provide justice. The flaws that it does have are in need of
reform and because of the recommendations from the government it can reach a
level of impartiality and fairness that could in time reduce the numbers of
miscarriages of justice to an extent where each member of society is fairly
represented and supported by the CJS.

PACE 1984

Human Rights Act 1998

3 “Stop
and Search Dashboard”
accessed 15 December 2017

4 Vikram
Dodd, “Stop and search 8 times more likely to target black people” The Guardian
(26 October 2017)
accessed 16 December 2017

Nigel Morris, “Black people still far more likely to be stopped and searched by
police than other ethnic groups” The Independent (6 August 2015)
accessed 21 December 2017

6 “CPS
annual report and accounts for 2016-2017”
accessed 28 December 2017

7 Rajeev
Syal, “Lord Janner will not face trial over abuse claims” The Guardian (16
April 2016)
accessed 2 January 2018

8 Jenny
Johnson “Miscarriage of justice warning over CPS funding cuts” The BBC (5
February 2016)
accessed 3 January 2018

Jon Robins “Justice Watchdog sued by wrongly convicted man who spent 17 years
in prison for attempted rape” The Independent (15 March 2015)
accessed 6 January 2018


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