Thousands of suspected paedophiles and violent criminals could be allowed to walk free and not face justice as London police consider ignoring un-served warrants.
The Metropolitan force is reviewing and clearing some outstanding warrants across all departments, including its child sex abuse unit, The Times reports, examining cases that are more than three years old.
In the London area, there are 7,000 warrants that have not yet been served, with suspects not attending court after being charged. If the offences were considered at the level of seriousness to be heard by magistrates, or in some cases by a judge and jury, they could be cleared.
Offences for which warrants could be withdrawn include possessing indecent images of children, harassment, battery, some drug offences, indecent assault, and burglary.
Some specific crimes, however, would be excluded, including rape, serious sexual assaults, and murder, and other such crimes that must be tried at Crown Court. The Crown Prosecution Service said they would review the warrants on a “case by case basis”.
John Bache, national chairman of the Magistrates Association, said: “Any application to withdraw a warrant that is brought to court will be carefully scrutinised to ensure that it would be just and appropriate to do so.
“This will ensure that there is robust scrutiny of this process and prevent any warrants from being withdrawn inappropriately.”
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A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said that it had been working with the Met in the review.
“These will be carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis, in line with the code for crown prosecutors and our guidance on the withdrawal of warrants. We will then make a decision on whether to apply to the court to withdraw the warrant, keep the warrant live or end the case.”
British police, particularly in Sadiq Khan’s London, have been struggling with a sharp rise in violent and sex crimes.
Earlier this month, crime figures revealed that fatal stabbings in England and Wales were at the highest level since 2010-2011, while rapes at knifepoint rose by 23 per cent in the past year.
Figures from January revealed that London has seen the largest increase in recorded knife crime in the country – rocketing by a massive 38 per cent in just one year.
Whether the outstanding warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange might be withdrawn, six years after he holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy, is unclear.