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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Court conviction rates 'tragic'
Brunstrom court graphic
North Wales police chief Richard Brunstrom has criticised the high levels of defendants who are cleared by crown court juries after pleading not guilty.

The chief constable said it was "tragic" that 63% of people who stood trial walked free.

Mr Brunstrom told a meeting of North Wales Police Authority that police officers and the Crown Prosecution Service were convinced defendants had a case to answer.
North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom
Richard Brunstrom: 'Tragic' situation

But it was jury members who concluded in almost two-thirds of cases that the accused were not guilty.

However, Mr Brunstrom has been accused by barrister Lord Thomas of Gresford of diverting attention away from the poor crime detection rates in north Wales.

"Crown courts in north Wales operate very responsibly and reach the right verdict in almost all the cases I have been involved in," said Lord Thomas.

"The headline figure is that recorded crime is up but the detection rate is only 28% and that means 72% of reported crime is not detected.

"What do you do about that? You draw attention away by attacking the criminal justice system."

Crown court trials in north Wales are held at Mold and Caernarfon - defendants are also sent to Chester Crown Court across the English border.

Mr Brunstrom compared the situation with the conviction rate at magistrates courts, which is 20% higher than crown courts.

But the chief constable added the low conviction rate in crown courts in north Wales was not any worse than other regions, with many crown courts experiencing similar conviction rate problems.

Drug legalisation

Mr Brunstrom's comments follow his recent controversial remarks concerning legalising drugs, which he put to the Police Federation last month.

In December last year, he told North Wales Police Authority that the Royal Commission should investigate the possibility of legalising some drugs.

His claims of using additional force funding to put more officers on the streets was also robustly challenged by former police chief and AM Alison Halford.

Mr Brunstrom's latest remarks address the effectiveness of the jury system in the UK.

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Lord Thomas of Gresford
"This is an attempt to divert attention away from crime detection rates"

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