Friday, May 30, 2008

For independent prosecutors

In the wake of three high-profile murder acquittals this week, lawyer Chris Comeskey has called for the existing network of Crown Solicitors to be replaced by an independent public prosecutor's office. I agree. The current system - in which the police make the decision then hire an approved private law firm to handle the courtroom details - is simply insane. There are no checks and balances, and no-one has an incentive to make sure the evidence is strong enough to support a conviction - the police have already convinced themselves of their chosen suspect's guilt, while the law firm has both an obligation to represent their client, and a direct financial incentive to press ahead no matter how weak the case is. As a result, cases where the evidence is iffy make it to court, wasting the time and money of the police, the court, and of course the hapless defendants (not that anyone seems to give a damn about them),

What we need is an independent body, acting as a check on the police and ensuring that their evidence is up to scratch. Not only will this result in less time and money wasted on poor cases where the police "know" they have the right person but haven't bothered to do the work to convince a jury; it should also result in fewer miscarriages of justice. While public prosecutor's offices inevitably develop a prosecutorial mindset, the mere fact that they are separate from the police and tasked with delivering not suspects, but convictions, should help protect them against the groupthink which all to easily takes hold.

Of course, this would mean the police would be subject to greater oversight and would no longer be able to do shoddy work, so I can see why they wouldn't like the idea. But the rest of us should be all for it.