The Justice Department plays an important part in bringing offenders to justice, as well as caring for the needs of victims who become witnesses in the criminal justice process. To this end, we are involved in a wide range of activities.
Preparing criminal prosecution files
The Justice Department acts as the main link between front-line police officers and staff, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). We are responsible for the administration, preparation and processing of prosecution files from initial submission by a police officer or staff member, through to finalization and disposal at court. Currently, we are working with our partners in CPS and the Courts Service to do away with paper files in the magistrates’ courts and to work digitally instead.
Our casebuilders professionally manage the file preparation process to ensure that prosecution files are built to a consistently high standard, within the strict timescales imposed by the courts. This also reduces the amount of paperwork that police officers have to complete, thereby freeing them up for operational duties. The casebuilders are supported by a team of Admin Support Staff, Audio Copy Typists and Case Support Workers. A further team of Detained Property Officers manages articles seized as evidence, ensures these exhibits are stored securely and returned to their owners (or safely disposed of) at the end of the case.
It isn’t always appropriate to deal with offenders by putting them through the courts system, so there are experts within the casebuilding team who can advise on restorative justice (ways in which it might be possible for the offender to put things right, either directly with the victim or the wider community), and other “out of court” disposals.
Justice Department Traffic Operations
This dedicated team specialises in Traffic cases, ranging from simple traffic stop/checks to speeding offences through to serious Road Traffic Collisions. As well as preparing prosecution files, this team handles fines (Penalty Notices for Disorder), and works with the Safer Roads Team to educate drivers through re-training courses to prevent them committing more serious offences in the future.
Witness Care Unit
The Witness Care Unit deals with all cases when a person has been charged with an offence and the case is proceeding to trial. In these circumstances, a dedicated Witness Care Officer will make contact with all civilian witnesses and victims, giving regular updates on how the case is progressing through the court proceedings, and giving them as much warning as possible of when they need to come to court.
The Witness Care Officer will also give practical help and tailored support when a witness is required to attend court. This could be for issues such as transport, childcare, interpreters etc, and even arranging for witnesses to visit the court beforehand, to give them a better idea of what to expect on the day.
The impact of a crime on an individual doesn’t always disappear as soon as the court passes sentence, so the Witness Care Unit also has a role in referring witnesses to expert local groups, such as Victim Support, where they can receive on-going support from specialists if needed.
Northamptonshire Police recognizes that if members of the public aren’t prepared to come to court to give evidence, then many prosecutions will fail and offenders will go unpunished and remain at liberty to commit further crimes. Therefore, it is continually striving to improve the service it offers to witnesses and victims and the Witness Care Unit is at the centre of these efforts. If you have been called to court to give evidence in a criminal case but haven’t been contacted by a Witness Care Officer, please telephone 101, extension 7502, for advice.
Justice Department is also responsible for running the custody blocks at various police stations across the county; the Criminal Justice Centre in Brackmills, opening August 2012, will replace outdated suites at Campbell Square and Weston Favell with 'state of the art' facilities. Custody is a vital link between the Department and operational policing; the efficient processing of arrested persons, speedy arrangements for investigatory interviews, and ensuring that detainees are ready for their court appearances all contribute to bringing offenders to justice swiftly.
The Firearms Licensing team, as the name suggests, is responsible for checking out applications from people who want to use all types of firearms and explosives, ensuring they are 'fit and proper' to do so, and that their weapons are stored securely. This involves making extensive background checks, and even visiting the applicants at home. The team is also responsible for seizing (and destroying) all unlicensed guns and ammunition, and for keeping the national database of firearms owners up to date.
If you wish to apply for a firearms licence, click on this link for more information.