Opinion: Do we need Special Prosecutors in the UK?

The fuss that has been generated following the arrest and questioning of Ruth Turner does pose some questions about how there can be investigations into political figures.

There may well be legitimate questions about why it was necessary to mount a dawn raid. A Prime Ministerial aide is hardly likely to be a serious flight risk, but to see Ministers questioning police operational decisions regarding investigations into their own government creates conflicts of interest left, right and centre.

The “cash for honours” inquiry is of course the most prominent police inquiry into the activity of politicians but it isn’t the only one. There have of course been a number of investigations into ballot fraud involving elected councillors. Sometimes those can be people with direct involvement in the democratic accountability of the Police, for example Colin Inglis was the Chair of the Humberside Police Authority when investigated (and subsequently acquitted) of child abuse charges.

There is of course no suggestion in any of these cases that any undue influence has been put on the police. But there can also be no certainty that police investigations aren’t tempered by knowledge that it is their political “masters” they are investigating. Deciding your going to question the Prime Minister is what you might call the ultimate “career decision”!

As that most overused Judicial quote has it, “justice must not just be done, it must also be seen to be done”.

America has a system of special prosecutors which can be appointed to investigate government figures over misconduct when in officer to seperate out the investigation from the machinery of government. Might it not be time to consider something similar here?

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4 Comments

  • Antony Hook 25th Jan '07 - 8:14pm

    America needs special prosecutors system partly because the US Attorneys (Federal prosecutor) are appointed by the Administration and are seen as quasi-political.

    Getting appointed as a US Attorney is sometimes a first step of a further political career. Ask Rudi Guilliani.

    But as Duncan points out Kenneth Starr was a completely political figure whose investigation was circus that did not much for justice and ruined the lives of several innocent people.

    Here, I I’m not aware of any significant concern that the CPS, as the national public prosecutor, is politically biased.

    However, vigilance remains, as ever, the price of freedom.

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