§ The Solicitor-General
In October 1999, in line with national policy, the Wearside branch of the Crown Prosecution Service, in liaison with the police, Houghton-le-Spring magistrates court and the defence, introduced the Narey proposals. All defendants charged with a criminal offence where a guilty plea is anticipated now make their first appearance before Houghton-le-Spring magistrates court within five working days. Present figures suggest that 40 per cent. of all defendants have their cases finalised far more quickly than previously was the case.
In April 2001, Crown Prosecution Service Northumbria will be altering its structure in line with the proposals of the Glidewell review. This will enable the Crown Prosecution Service to place greater emphasis on the more serious crime cases in Newcastle and Durham Crown courts. The Crown Prosecution Service, together with other agencies, also help to draw up a protocol with social services relating to unused material which assists in expediting cases involving child witnesses. The Crown Prosecution Service also has a procedure for "fast tracking" persistent youth offenders cases with the Crown court and youth courts. All these changes illustrate the Government's successful policy of speeding up the work of the criminal justice system.
Since May 1997, the Crown Prosecution Service has successfully prosecuted a number of significant cases arising in the Houghton-le-Spring area. In December 1998, the Crown Prosecution Service successfully prosecuted Stephen. Urwin for the murder of an elderly occupant in his home. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. In August 1999, Colin Bainbridge abducted Laura Kane, aged 9, whom he knew, and subsequently raped and murdered her. He was found guilty at a trial at Newcastle Crown court and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Actions and policies of the Treasury Solicitor's Department and the Serious Fraud Office affect my hon. Friend's constituency only indirectly.