The Criminal Justice System (CJS) in the UK is comprised ofa number of institutions and agencies of which are involved in theadministration of justice in the UK. These are; the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) thisis responsible for the courts, prisons, probation services and attendancecentres.
It highlights one of its main aims as a service that reformsoffenders. The Home Office is the department that focuses on immigration andpassports, drugs policy, crime, fire, counter-terrorism and police. Thisdepartment outlines one of its aims as reducing and preventing crime. The CrownProsecution Service (CPS) is tasked with prosecuting criminal cases that havebeen investigated by the police and details their duty as to make sure theright person is prosecuted for the right offence. The Attorney General is thechief legal advisor to the crown and oversees the Law offices, the current roleholder is Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP. Finally, the Police are tasked withdetecting and rewarding crime of which they have a statutory responsibility.
Itis seen as very important for each of these institutions and agencies toachieve justice for suspects, the public and victims of crime.The Police have a duty to protect the public via preventionof crime and it’s important that they exercise their powers of investigation ina fair and just way. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 19841was implemented in order to balance out the police’s powers with the protectionof the public’s rights.
This is due to frequent miscarriages of justice and theabuse of powers by the Police. An example is the Birmingham Six, a high profilecase that led six men to be sentenced to life imprisonment following theirfalse convictions in relation to the Birmingham pub bombings. They were subjectto beatings and burnt with cigarettes as well as long interrogations forsometimes up to 12 hours whilst in custody of the West Midlands Police.
Due to these types of cases, it was in the public’s view thatthe Police should be held accountable for their actions which lead to PACEbeing implemented. The Act made the methods of the Police more transparent andallowed the public to understand more clearly their rights if they themselveswere arrested via the codes of practise. The powers the Police now possess areto use reasonable force when arresting a suspect where it is absolutely necessary,that force must therefore must be reasonable and proportionate.
They also havea responsibility to respect the rights and freedoms of an individual containedwithin the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the rights containedin the Human Rights Act 19982.Article 8 of the ECHR provides that an individual has the right to not sufferill-treatment i.e.
physical justice, meaning that the Police are not allowed tobe discriminatory or excessive when exercising their powers.This however doesn’t mean that the Police do act in a waythat is fair and just. Stop and Searches for example are proof that when exercisingtheir powers, the Police can still be discriminatory. According to theMetropolitan Police’s Stop and Search dashboard, in August 2017, 4.
5 out ofevery 1’000 people in a search volume of 5’774 people was Black. This compared toonly 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 stopand searched than White people, this is especially alarming as according to the2011 Census there are over 4.8 million White people comprising of 59.79% of thetotal population in comparison to just over 1 million Black people comprisingjust 13.32% of the total population.
This shows that Black people are clearlybeing disproportionately targeted by the Met Police. In an article written by the Guardian, Black people areeight times more likely to be Stop and Searched than White people. The figuresshow that Stop and Searches fell by 21% in 2017 with stops of White peoplefalling 28% in that time but stops of Black people fell by just 11%.
In thesame article the home secretary Amber Rudd stated “no one should be stoppedbecause of their race or ethnicity. Chief constables will need to explaindisparities in their force areas, because if stop and search powers are misusedit is counterproductive and damages confidence in policing.” This shows theclear racial disparity with Stop and Searches despite the Governments bestattempts to close this gap4.
Another concern with regards to the police is deaths inpolice custody or immediately following police custody. After the death ofStephen Lawrence in 1993 and the investigation that followed, the MetropolitanPolice were denounced as being institutionally racist In the Macpherson Report.In an article by the Independent, Isabella Sankey, the policy director atLiberty, said that statistics showed ethnic minorities were still beingdisproportionately targeted 16 years after the Macpherson Report and that “whilesuch racial bias continues, distrust between the police and the communitiesthey are supposed to serve will only grow”5.
A report from Inquest, a charity that investigates deaths inpolice custody, stated that over 1’500 people have died in or following policecustody since 1990. The institute of Race Relations (IRR) then reported that ofthis number, more than 500 of those were Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME)individuals of which many were vulnerable victims. This is clearly disproportionateas black people of which are 3% of the total population of the UK account forone third of all deaths in police custody. Sean Rigg, a black British musician whosuffered from paranoid schizophrenia died in Police custody in 2008. This waswidely seen as an injustice due to his vulnerable nature and the way he wastreated by the police. He suffered a cardiac arrest outside Brixton policestation after being left for 10 minutes handcuffed and unmonitored.
The deathof Sean Rigg like many others shows the injustices that can still be seen fromthe police today, however the police do not receive training to deal with situationsinvolving mental health problems due to a lack of funding from the governmentand therefore cannot be seen as fully responsible in these types of situations.The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is tasked withprosecuting criminal cases that have been investigated by the police. It is an independentagency that makes its decisions independently from the police and thegovernment.
Their mission statement as outline on their website is “to deliverjustice through the independent and effective prosecution of crime, fostering aculture of excellence by supporting and inspiring each other to be the best wecan”. They advise the police in the majority of criminal cases on charges toinstigate proceedings and to prepare cases for court. Prior to when the CPS wasformed in 1986 the police were responsible for bringing their own criminalproceedings but were not seen as independent. This is due to the fact that thatthe police were investigating and prosecuting their own cases which essentiallyallows them to do what they please in order to gain a conviction. This wasn’t seenas independent because of the obvious conflict of interest this had caused.
For the CPS to decide on whether they bring criminalproceedings or not they must consider two tests, the evidential and the publicinterest. The evidential test involves the CPS working out whether a case hasenough evidence to support their attempt at a conviction. If a case hasinsufficient or non-credible evidence the CPS will not take on the case, thisis because they have limited funding from the government so can only take oncases they believe have a real chance of conviction.
Even if a case has enoughevidence to suffice them taking it on, they still may however choose not to doso 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 succeedby getting the charging decision correct. The public interest test considersvarious factors that includes how serious the offence was, and the impact ithad on the community. If a person has committed a serious offence for example ahate crime, the CPS will charge that person so as to ensure justice.
As so few cases are discontinued, the CPS could be argued tobe an effective department of governance in the UK. However, there are still asignificant number of cases which are discontinued each year. In 2016/17 theCPS discontinued 47’521 cases just before they got to trial, this accounts for9.5% of all cases taken during that time which isn’t a lot in terms of all thecase outcomes that occurred but is still nearly 50’000 cases that they wereunable to continue to pursue6.The former Labour peer Lord Janner had various historical sexual abuseallegations made against himself as far back as in 1991.
Shortly before hisdeath in 2015, the CPS although having sufficient evidence that would havewarranted a criminal trial, decided against pursuing the case in the courts7.This is due to the severity of his health and therefore inability to reoffendin the future. This decision was seen as controversial due to the severity ofthe offences he is alleged to have committed as even with his health being sopoor, justice in the eyes of the victims would have not been served. The decisionnot to charge Lord Janner however was overturned due to the rights of the victimsto appeal the said decision. This ensured some justice although he died beforethe trial could commence.In defence of the CPS, due to budget cuts of 25% since 2010 they’vehad to cut the number of staff by 2’400.
This inadvertently means that in orderto continue to meet prosecution targets, the institution would have to cutcorners and mistakes would become more apparent which in turn could lead tomiscarriages of justice. In an article by the BBC, Jonathan Elystan Rees, amember of the Criminal Bar Association in Wales said that CPS staff were “operatingwith one hand tied behind their back at the moment”8evidently due to the lack of funding they have received. Also, during a victimand witness satisfaction survey in 2015 the overall satisfaction with the CPSwas higher amongst witnesses with 74% saying they were at least fairlysatisfied with 64% of victims saying they were at least fairly satisfied. 11%of the victims however were very dissatisfied which could be due to theapparent cuts that had to be made.
Within the CJS, the courts play a very important role. Oncea decision has been made to prosecute, proceedings will begin to take place inthe criminal courts. Even if a person is being charged with an indictableoffence i.e. s.
18 GBH, they will appear in front of the magistrates court wherethe charges will be read out. The judiciary are seen as declarative i.e. theysimply state the law and apply it to the case in hand, but in reality judgesare quite the opposite due to the doctrines of statutory interpretation andjudicial interpretation whereby they actually create new law through case lawand such.
The majority of cases will be heard by lay magistrates however ofwhom are unpaid and do not have legal qualifications although are giventraining. The reason for this is because it is seen as a means of achievingjustice due to a person being tried by their own peers. The lay magistrates sit on a bench of 3 so as to get abalanced decision as well as assistance from legal advisors, this leads to veryfew appeals against decisions so it appears to work successfully. Nevertheless,Lay magistrates are supposed to be representative of society in order to makethe process more just, however according to statistics by the ADD, 80% of alllay 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. Theproblem they have however is the rigorous selection process whereby it’s veryhard to become a lay magistrate if you’re below the age of 25 or an ethnicminority for example with less than 1% under the age of 30.
Juries on the other-hand are resided in the crown court wherebyit’s their decision as to whether the defendant is guilty or not. Similarly to laymagistrates, juries are seen as a means of justice due to them also supposed tobe representative of society as they are randomly selected from the electoralregister so there is no bias as to who is picked. The problems with thishowever, also similarly to lay magistrates is the fact that due to thisparticular selection process, anyone on the register could be picked meaningthat the jury could be all white males or all females. This on a case by casebasis could also be seen as unjust as the particular jury could potentially bebias if they are not proportionate of society and therefore do not representthe person on trial. Also due to the particular nature of a case i.e.
if it isa high profile case, the jury could have a bias due to outside influences suchas the media, and if a case involves complicated law that the jury may struggleto understand they may struggle thereby wasting time and subsequently money. The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was setup in1995 to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice independently and impartially.The most common cases involve individuals of whom have spent a considerateamount of time in prison before their cases were eventually quashed such as theBirmingham 6 who each spent nearly 17 years in prison. This however could beseen as an abuse of their power due to the disconnect it creates with thepublic as trust levels in relation to the confidence they have of the police andthe CJS at doing their job has lessened. Of the 635 cases that were referred tothe Court of Appeal, 431 led to successful appeals, leaving the remaining 204cases referred to the court unsuccessful.
This can be seen as a miscarriages ofjustice due to the sheer volume of unsuccessful cases. The case of Victor Nealon is proof of such. In 1997 he waswrongly convicted of attempted rape, and was given a discretionary lifesentence with no parole due to him refusing to admit his guilt. He served 17years in Wakefield prison before being released with nowhere to stay and £46. Hisconviction was quashed due to new DNA evidence which the MOJ thought did notshow reasonable enough doubt that he didn’t commit the offence. Because ofthis, 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 applicationtwice and responding by stating the organisation “could and should haveidentified there were forensic opportunities that had not been explored”9To some extent I believe the criminal justice system CJSdoes achieve justice. This is due to the various institutions and agencieswithin the CJS that exist in order to provide justice for victims and theaccused, for example the CPS. There are many arguments to suggest that the CJSis achieving justice well with over 390’000 guilty pleas between 2016 and 2017from the CPS as well as 74% of witnesses and 64% of victims feeling at leastfairly satisfied with the agencies handling of their cases. To some extent onthe contrary however, there are many flaws with the CJS in the UK that have andwill continue to create miscarriages of justice without reform from the policeto the MOJ. The agencies themselves are generally impartial although it isclear that other parts of the CJS are in dire need of reform due tomiscarriages of justice having took place i.e.
the CCRC, with the case ofVictor Nealon. In late 2017, 11 recommendations were published by the homeoffice into the way people were treated when in and immediately after policecustody, it provided more support for more vulnerable people, this may havesaved Sean Riggs life had these recommendations been published sooner. In conclusion, with the many flaws that the CJS has, it doesin more cases than not achieved justice via the procedures and processes whichexist in order to provide justice. The flaws that it does have are in need ofreform and because of the recommendations from the government it can reach alevel of impartiality and fairness that could in time reduce the numbers ofmiscarriages of justice to an extent where each member of society is fairlyrepresented and supported by the CJS.1PACE 19842Human Rights Act 19983 “Stopand Search Dashboard” https://www.met.police.uk/stats-and-data/stop-and-search-dashboard/accessed 15 December 20174 VikramDodd, “Stop and search 8 times more likely to target black people” The Guardian(26 October 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/law/2017/oct/26/stop-and-search-eight-times-more-likely-to-target-black-peopleaccessed 16 December 20175Nigel Morris, “Black people still far more likely to be stopped and searched bypolice than other ethnic groups” The Independent (6 August 2015) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/black-people-still-far-more-likely-to-be-stopped-and-searched-by-police-than-other-ethnic-groups-10444436.htmlaccessed 21 December 20176 “CPSannual report and accounts for 2016-2017” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cps-annual-report-and-accounts-2016-2017accessed 28 December 20177 RajeevSyal, “Lord Janner will not face trial over abuse claims” The Guardian (16April 2016) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/apr/16/lord-janner-no-trial-abuse-claims/accessed 2 January 20188 JennyJohnson “Miscarriage of justice warning over CPS funding cuts” The BBC (5February 2016) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-35496012accessed 3 January 20189Jon Robins “Justice Watchdog sued by wrongly convicted man who spent 17 yearsin prison for attempted rape” The Independent (15 March 2015) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/justice-watchdog-sued-by-wrongly-convicted-man-who-spent-17-years-in-prison-for-attempted-rape-10108752.htmlaccessed 6 January 2018