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Labour pledges to reverse ‘collapse in solving crime’ with ‘Charging Commission’ | Politics News

Labour has set up a task force responsible for drawing up reforms to increase the number of crimes solved – which the party would implement if it wins the next election.

The Opposition said more than 90% of crimes are going unsolved under the Tories, with a record 2.4 million cases dropped due to evidential difficulties in the last year alone.

Labour has set up a so-called “Charging Commission” with immediate effect. It will aim to identify reasons for the “woeful” decline in successful law enforcement and develop credible proposals to turn things around.

Senior experts from across the policing and prosecutorial sectors will sit on the commission. It will be chaired by the former Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, the party said.

Dame Vera quit as the victims’ commissioner in September last year, saying in a damning resignation letter that the “criminal justice system is in chaos” and ministers have downgraded victims’ interest.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “It should be unthinkable for so many more crimes to face no consequences whatsoever, but that is the shameful reality after 13 Conservative years.

“This expert Commission will help us to deliver on our pledge to make Britain safer.”

Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has told Sky News that the party is "working really hard" ahead of the upcoming by-elections.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper

Labour pointed to recent Home Office figures showing that in the year to March 2023, there were “evidential difficulties” with 2.4 million out of 5.4 million recorded crimes.

Just 9.7% of all crimes resulted in a charge, out-of-court action or diversionary activity – leaving over 90% unsolved.

Labour said a record-high number of victims are giving up on the criminal justice system, with 1.6 million cases being dropped due to complainants pulling out.

It comes as the number of days it takes to charge a suspect has tripled since 2016, from 14 to 44.

Responding to Labour’s proposals, a Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Labour are soft on crime and soft on criminals. Keir Starmer has consistently whipped his MPs to vote against stronger sentences for violent offenders and rapists.

“Where Labour are in power, crime is over a third higher than Conservative-run areas, and as Director of Prosecutions Keir Starmer oversaw a huge drop in the number of sexual offences that were prosecuted.

“Meanwhile, we have cut the reoffending rate to lower than when Labour left office, increased the conviction rate by 15%, doubled charge rates for rape, and introduced tougher sentences for the worst offenders.”

Read more:
‘Unforgivable lack of urgency’ to improve support for rape survivors

According to Labour, the party’s Charging Commission will devise recommendations for key areas, including improvements to digital forensics to help police crack more cases and cutting red tape in joint-working arrangements between forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Alongside Dame Vera, members who have agreed to join the commission include former chief constable Stephen Otter, former chief crown prosecutor Drusilla Sharpling and West Yorkshire Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Alison Lowe.

Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, said it was time to replace the “blame game” between the police and the CPS over plummeting charge rates with cooperation to punish criminals and protect communities.

Labour's Emily Thornberry
Labour’s Emily Thornberry

Dame Vera said the commission will “forensically investigate the causes of this charging crisis, and set out robust recommendations for recovery”.

She said: “The woeful collapse in charging rates has exposed victims of crime to intolerable anguish and uncertainty, and we are now seeing record numbers of victims giving up on the criminal justice system altogether.

“Investigations and prosecutions for serious crimes like rape are in a dismal state, the criminal justice system is in chaos, and things simply cannot stay as they are.”

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Labour: UK in ‘doom loop’ when it comes to crime

Barristers have also told Sky News that the justice system is “about to crack” with a shortage of prosecutors, judges and courtrooms hindering efforts to clear the crown court backlog.

The state of the justice system is expected to be a dominant issue at the next general election, with both major parties seeking to sell themselves to voters as the party of law and order.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

SNP warns Electoral Commission over ‘difficulty’ in finding new auditors as deadline looms | Politics News

The SNP has warned the Electoral Commission of the “difficulty” it is having in finding new auditors after its previous firm resigned amid the controversy over the party’s finances.

The admission to the elections watchdog comes just months before a crunch deadline which requires political parties to submit their accounts to the agency by 7 July, or risk being fined.

The SNP is facing questions and accusations of secrecy over the timeline of the resignation of Johnston Carmichael, which was announced last week.

SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf said earlier on Tuesday they had quit “round about October” – months before the official announcement – but Sky News has now been told the auditors had in fact resigned a month earlier in September.

It is understood Johnston Carmichael informed the SNP in September 2022 that it would not be able to carry out the audit due for 2023 following a review of their client portfolio.

Junior doctors march to Downing Street on first day of industrial action – politics latest

The party then began approaching alternative firms in late 2022 to no avail, with the search intensifying in early 2023. As yet, the party has not been able to identify a firm with the available capacity.

Mr Yousaf raised eyebrows after he admitted he had also not been aware of Johnston Carmichael’s resignation last year, saying he could not “comment on what was done prior to me becoming a leader of the SNP”.

However, he agreed it was “extraordinary” that the party had failed to appoint a new set of auditors since they had resigned.

The struggle to find replacement auditors comes following the dramatic events of last week which prompted Johnston Carmichael to confirm it was no longer handling the SNP’s accounts.

Days before, Peter Murrell, the former party chief executive and Ms Sturgeon’s husband, was arrested and questioned by police investigating the party’s finances.

Mr Murrell, who had been in the role for 25 years, quit during the contest to find Ms Sturgeon’s successor after she unexpectedly announced her resignation.

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The SNP has been accused of hiding the fact that auditors stopped handling their accounts six months ago.

Last week he was questioned by Police Scotland as part of its investigation into the whereabouts of £600,000 of party donations earmarked for independence campaigning.

It is understood there have been complaints the ringfenced cash may have been used improperly by being spent elsewhere.

Mr Murrell was later released without charge “pending further investigation”.

Opposition parties said Mr Yousaf’s revelation about the timing of the auditors’ resignation raised further questions about who knew what about their finances.

Read more:
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf reveals SNP auditors resigned six months ago
First Minister Humza Yousaf says governance of SNP ‘was not as it should be’

MSP Jackson Carlaw, who was leader of the Scottish Conservatives from 2019 to 2020, tweeted: “Why did they hide it from the membership and the public? All very grubby and murky from the Nats. No wonder auditors resigned.”

Mr Yousaf, who was only elected leader just over two weeks ago, said one of the party’s “major priorities” was appointing new auditors “quickly”.

He said the SNP hopes to still have its accounts prepared in time to be submitted to the Electoral Commission in July, although he admitted it would be “problematic”.

An SNP spokesperson said: “We have informed the Electoral Commission of the difficulty in identifying replacement auditors and the national treasurer has made the party’s finance and audit committee aware.”