Fears funding cuts will prevent justice from being done

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PROSECUTORS and police working to bring people to justice are struggling to cope with crippling government cuts, it has been claimed.

Figures obtained by The News show both professions have had their ranks decimated, with workers saying they cannot deal with the volume of crime as a result.

I’ve recruited very few police officers in the five years I’ve worked in Hampshire. At some stage that’s going to cause us a significant problem in the age and length of service of officers coming through

Chief constable Andy Marsh

A quarter of lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service have been axed in the past three years, while recruitment of police officers has reduced.

Just 22 police officers were recruited in 2014/15 – and only 164 since 2011/12.

Hampshire’s top officer chief constable Andy Marsh said: ‘I’m concerned in reducing our officers, of course, and I would love to be able to recruit. I’ve recruited very few police officers in the five years I’ve worked in Hampshire.

‘At some stage that’s going to cause us a significant problem in the age and length of service of officers coming through.’

Officers who have passed exams are unable to move up as few positions have opened and that has crippled morale, according to the organisation that represents rank-and-file police officers.

Police officers, unions and politicians fear all of this is damaging justice.

A police source told The News: ‘We cannot deal with the volume of crime.

‘We’re barely coping. It’s absolutely mad.’

Hampshire police has lost £80m in its grant from the Home Office since 2010 and the local CPS lost £2.3m since 2012.

Roy Swales, a candidate in the police and crime commissioner election, said: ‘People will re-offend knowing they can possibly get away without prosecution which will add to the police burden and criminal justice system as a whole.’

A CPS spokeswoman said all prosecutions were determined by evidence and public interest tests but lawyers do consider likely outcomes and the cost to the CPS and wider criminal justice system.

The News is reporting on the effects of cuts to the public sector each day this week ahead of the chancellor George Osborne announcing the Comprehensive Spending Review next week.

The CPS is undertaking a recruitment drive to shore up numbers but it is unclear how much cash it could lose.

At Hampshire police, 197 constables have passed exams and are now waiting to be promoted to sergeant rank – according to a recent survey.

And 52 sergeants are waiting to be made inspectors. Just 164 officers have been recruited between 2011/12 and 2014/15, according to Freedom of Information figures.

CPS Wessex – which covers Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Dorset and Wiltshire – has lost around 36 prosecutors since March 2012, leaving it with a staff of 101 including 10 managers.

Its budget has been cut back from £14.2m in 2012/13 to £11.9m to 2014/15.

Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter added: ‘That’s caused a great deal of concern that is contributing towards a bit of crisis in morale in policing.’

Figures obtained by The News show 19 officers were promoted to senior ranks above inspector in the year previous.

And while 164 officers were recruited, 564 new staff were employed. A police spokesman said the force had a 50 per cent higher turnover of staff and staff are brought in on short-term contracts.

The number of staff at the force is projected to be 1,818 in April 2016, down from 2,479 in 2010. The number of officers – who cannot be made compulsorily redundant – is due to be 2,857, down from 3,736 in April 2010.

Since 2011/12, just 149 police officers have been promoted up the ranks.

A CPS spokeswoman said its budget had been cut by 30 per cent in five years and the workforce reduced by 34 per cent.

A spokeswoman from the FDA union, which represents CPS lawyers, said: ‘The FDA has expressed concerns as to the ability of the CPS to undertake its role during this period and argued and continues to argue that the service needs to be adequately funded to discharge its duties.’ She welcomed the recruitment of more lawyers.