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MP Hugh Bayley steps in over closure of Athena House in Clifton Moor
8:36am Friday 18th May 2012 in News
YORK Central MP Hugh Bayley is calling on the Government to keep a joint police and CPS office in York open.
He fears that if Athena House on Clifton Moor, closes, it could mean criminals getting away with their crimes, as well as increased costs.
The CPS recently finished a consultation on moving its staff to its Leeds office and has yet to make a final decision. It will keep a presence in central York. The purpose-built Athena House was hailed as a way to reduce court delays and bring closer co-operation between police and prosecutors when it was opened in 2005.
In a House of Commons debate, Mr Bayley urged Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly to stop the proposed move.
Then he wrote to the same minister for details about cost savings and reductions in delays at York and Selby courts since Athena House opened. He said: “Athena House was set up seven years ago to save money. By getting prosecutors and police working side by side they avoided administrative slip-ups – like listing a case to be heard on a day when the arresting police officer cannot give evidence. In those cases, hearings were delayed, which added huge costs – for the judge, witnesses, prisons holding a defendant in custody, lawyers and other court staff. If the CPS staff are moved, it will cost far more than it saves, and could even lead to some criminals getting away with their crimes.”
Mr Djanogly told him in the Commons moving CPS staff was not a matter for the Ministry of Justice, but for the Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who deals with Parliamentary matters concerning the CPS.
Responding to a written parliamentary question to the Attorney General from Mr Bayley, the Solicitor General Edward Garnier wrote that York was the smallest of the CPS’s offices in North and West Yorkshire. The move would enable the CPS to maintain the same quality of service and bring “increased resilience” when staff numbers were dropping “considerably”.
“In addition digital working will compliment the consolidation of the area’s operations as more files will be served more quickly by electronic means,” he wrote.
York councillors from all three main parties expressed reservations or opposition to the proposals earlier this month.