Metropolitan Police officers failed to attend court to give evidence 56 times over the past three months, according to a Freedom of Information Act response published on the force’s website.
Data on the non-attendance of witnesses is collated by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service as part of its monitoring of Magistrates court hearings adjourned or discontinued.
According to the Met’s response, the number of Magistrates court hearings adjourned over the past three months where officers failed to attend was as follows:
June 2013: 23
July 2013: 20
August 2013: 13
No figures are available for cases heard by higher courts.
The FOI response says “non-attendance can be for many reasons such as a failure to be warned, a conflict of court dates, annual leave, etc as well as failing to attend when required to.”
Since financial year 2010/11, 25 police officers have been the subject of conduct investigations arising from their failure to attend court. Of these 11 faced a misconduct hearing, resulting in 9 receiving a first written warning.
The figures emerged just days after a report by the London Assembly Conservative group revealed more than 9.500 cases in London’s Crown and Magistrates courts were dropped or delayed in 2012 due to failings by the Crown Prosecution Service or within the court system.
Commenting on the new figures, report author Tony Arbour AM, said: “Some police may not be turning up because they have no confidence in the justice system.
“My report, Justice Postponed, quotes an officer who prefers to hand out cautions as a more reliable form of punishment. These figures confirm our conclusion that bureaucratic failures are to blame for most delays in our courts. A fit for purpose system should urgently be implemented to make sure that everyone who is meant to be at court turns up.
“Everybody involved in the process needs to know what is expected of them. Police, CPS and prosecution barristers must directly communicate before the trial to make sure it is ready and officers and witnesses need to be told when and where to turn up. Villains can only be swiftly brought to justice once we get the basics right and victims deserve nothing less.”