Scrap Local Authority Prosecution Powers

Abolish s.222 of the Local Government Act 1972. Transfer all prosecution powers of local authorities to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Currently (in England and Wales) local authorities bring their own prosecutions based on their own investigations by their own departments – including trading standards, environmental health, housing benefit, etc.

There is a lack of independent assessment of the merits of prosecution meaning that great expense can be incurred by businesses, particularly small businesses, if the prosecutions are unwarranted. It is not suggested that all prosecutions are unwarranted – clearly there are rogue traders, benefit cheats and poor environmental practices. However, the separation of these powers would be likely to force local authorities to engage in more positive forms of regulation – such as advice and support – rather than opt for prosecution as an easy option.

In addition, each local authority employs 3 – 4 prosecution lawyers at a cost of around £80m per year. Only a fraction of this is ever recouped from offenders. Lawyers often have to sit around in court waiting for their CPS counterparts to complete a whole bundle of cases before the local authority lawyer gets on to deal with just one. This is grossly inefficient.

Why is this idea important?

Abolish s.222 of the Local Government Act 1972. Transfer all prosecution powers of local authorities to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Currently (in England and Wales) local authorities bring their own prosecutions based on their own investigations by their own departments – including trading standards, environmental health, housing benefit, etc.

There is a lack of independent assessment of the merits of prosecution meaning that great expense can be incurred by businesses, particularly small businesses, if the prosecutions are unwarranted. It is not suggested that all prosecutions are unwarranted – clearly there are rogue traders, benefit cheats and poor environmental practices. However, the separation of these powers would be likely to force local authorities to engage in more positive forms of regulation – such as advice and support – rather than opt for prosecution as an easy option.

In addition, each local authority employs 3 – 4 prosecution lawyers at a cost of around £80m per year. Only a fraction of this is ever recouped from offenders. Lawyers often have to sit around in court waiting for their CPS counterparts to complete a whole bundle of cases before the local authority lawyer gets on to deal with just one. This is grossly inefficient.