Senior prosecution officials’ bonuses could lead to miscarriages of justice, the Times has reported.
An investigation by the paper has revealed senior staff at the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office (RCPO) have received £44,000 in bonuses, which were partly linked to hitting targets for the confiscation of assets from defendants.
Home Office targets for annual seizures have been set at £250m by 2010 – with this figure rising to £1bn per year.
But lawyers have expressed concern that financial incentives awarded for achieving these targets could “skew justice”.
Ivan Lawrence QC, a former Conservative MP and chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “Once you start setting targets you are saying, ‘Never mind justice.’
“Bodies like RCPO have to make a judgment on the cases they pursue – if they make that judgment on the basis that they will receive a lot of money, it calls into question whether justice is going to be done.”
The RCPO disclosed to the Times that in 2008-09 it paid almost £44,000 in bonuses to senior staff who met “agreed, written objectives”.
It added: “In one instance these objectives relate to confiscation of criminal assets.”
Revenue & Customs said it paid £11.5m in bonuses in 2008-09 to staff of all grades who were judged to be “top performers”.