Comparing UK to Canada policing techniques

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Jock McCulloch
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Comparing UK to Canada policing techniques

Postby Jock McCulloch » Tue Aug 25, 2020 10:18 am

Greetings from across the pond :-)

I'm a cop in England, having previously been one in Scotland and just wondered about how different or similar your approach is to two issues; crime recording and offender reporting for prosecution. The reason I ask is because these couldn't be any different between Scotland and England.

Crime recording:
In Scotland, officers decide whether there is enough evidence to record a crime, based on the legal definition and elements of an offence. Example; in order to establish a vandalism, you need to destroy/damage someone else's property either intentionally or recklessly, so if you say your neighbour broke a pot plant in your garden by kicking a football around in his back garden and it accidentally ended up over the fence, then we wouldn't class this as reckless or intentional unless there is a witness stating the neighbour took a direct shot aiming towards the neighbouring property, thereby establishing a careless disregard for the consequence. Without such a witness, there is insufficient evidence that the elements of the crime are met, ergo, no crime is recorded.

In England however, while this used to the case until a few years ago, the only requirement now is that someone believes a crime has happened. In the previous scenario, the victim need not see or hear anything, just discover the damage if they believe it was intentional or reckless, we record a crime, even without any witnesses or suspects. Another example; you walk down the street and hear someone shouting an obscenity, but can't see who or where it's from, if you think it was directed at you, it's crimed. As you can understand, this means England records a crime pretty much every time someone calls the Police and as such, crime recording means absolutely nothing. I have recorded harassment crimes because someone believes their neighbour's dog barking is directly aimed at causing them anxiety and depression...

Prosecuting offenders:
In Scotland, if you have 2 bits of evidence, like two witness statements that both identify a crime and an offender, Police charge the named suspect with the relevant offence and report him to the Procurator Fiscal (the prosecuting body for criminal offences). You don't need to interview a suspect unless you only have one witness statement and no other corroboration. The purpose is to see if the suspect admits the offence (they very seldom do). If the Procurator Fiscal decides the matter is not suitable, it's up to them to decline prosecution. The case files for submission for 99% of volume crime can be completed in 2 hours with ease.

In England, Police have discretion as to whether to report someone to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for very low level offences (shoplifting and non-injury assaults), citing the public interest test, but regardless of the abundance of evidence, all suspects need to be interviewed, all the evidence put to them and afford them the opportunity to provide a defence, or lack thereof. Police can only charge for the most minor of offences (mentioned previously), but for everything else, we are required to refer to the CPS by preparing a case-file that by most standards requires 6 to 8 hours as there are tons of forms and a great deal of needless repetition and duplication. Unless it's an exceptionally serious offence that involves serious prison time, even in cases of overwhelming evidence, the CPS will normally decline to prosecute due to court costs, especially if the suspect doesn't fully admit to the crime. Basically, England is a criminal's paradise.

I think my preference for Scotland's legal system is evident. Just wondering, seeing how Canada is part of the Commonwealth and you have a Common Law system similar to England's, if your policing procedures are similar as well. I appreciate Canada is a vast country and you probably have regional/jurisdictional variations, like what I described between Scotland and England, so everyone from different regions please feel free to chime in.

Cheers :-)

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