CPS inspectors call for ‘culture change’

Topics: Criminal justice,Government & politics

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CPS lawyers have been criticised for failing to engage effectively with defence practitioners amid efforts to reduce delays in magistrates’ courts.

A report published by the CPS Inspectorate today says a ‘clear message’ is needed from CPS managers to staff and defence practitioners about expectations in relation to engagement.

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‘CPS lawyers are failing to engage effectively with the defence prior to the first hearing,’ the report states.

‘Whilst there are obstacles to constructive and early engagement, they are not such that the concept should be abandoned. Much more effort needs to be made to bring about the required culture change at an operational level.’

The Transforming Summary Justice initiative was established in 2015 to reduce delays in magistrates’ courts, hold fewer hearings per case and increase the number of trials that go ahead the first time they are listed.

The programme was agreed by parties including the CPS, police forces, senior presiding judge, the judiciary, the chief magistrate, Magistrates’ Association, National Probation Service and the Law Society.

Reporting on the CPS’s contribution so far, the inspectorate said CPS charging decisions were good but ‘there was a failure to review cases for the first hearing in too many instances’.

Inspectors found duplication in the work done by the CPS direct charging lawyer, CPS area lawyer undertaking the initial review and the court prosecutor in respect of the review for trial preparation.

The CPS was ‘poor’ at ensuring that initial details of the prosecution case were served on the defence in advance of the hearing.

However inspectors said there was a ‘clear commitment’ to the initiative and strong leadership from senior CPS representatives.

CPS legal training was ‘very good and well received’, though inspectors said it would have been enhanced by coverage of more practical issues.

More than three-quarters of first hearings were ‘effective’. The report states that CPS prosecutors were ‘well prepared, robust and able to make decisions’.

Chief crown prosecutor Barry Hughes said the report highlighted the CPS’s ‘positive contribution’ to the joint initiative.

’A lot of work has gone into ensuring that our prosecutors are provided with the necessary training and support, and we are pleased this has been acknowledged within the report’.

The CPS is ’committed to further improving how the system works’, alongside the police and court service.

’We are already taking action on many of the report’s recommendations and will continue to work to ensure victims and witnesses do not face unnecessary delays and hearings, and to increase overall efficiency in the magistrates’ court,’ Hughes said.

Readers' comments (11)

  • Interesting. Now Central Funds have gone, any sort of policing of the state prosecutors is pretty much non existent.

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  • You can have all the initiatives you like but only when the constituent parts of our Justice system are properly resourced and there is an agreed definition/image of "efficiency" then the system will limp from one initiative to the next looking for the desired improvement.
    Here's an idea: why can't the Police enter into arrangements with a variety of legal advice and advocacy contractors who express a willingness to undertake such work through competitive tendering so that through competition standards are improved through the desire to win more work from the Police. For how long would the CPS survive?

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  • 'The CPS was ‘poor’ at ensuring that initial details of the prosecution case were served on the defence in advance of the hearing.'


    As far as I am concerned based upon my own personal experience, The word 'Poor' is an understatement

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  • It's important to further note that when CPS fail to comply with the Criminal Procedure Rules, the Court then fails to take the appropriate action. Courts used to, at the request of Defence Solicitors, list non-compliance hearings. Those are now a dim and distant memory. It would seem that the CPR are nothing more than a nice idea.

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  • "The CPS is ’committed to further improving how the system works’, alongside the police and court service."

    Hmmm no mention of the defence then...?

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  • @Anonymous23 February 2016 04:12 pm:

    No, no mention, and no mention for example now on TV (just aggrieved public who never thought it would happen to them (see for example the families of those (rightly or wrongly) drawn into the joint liability debacle (nothing from the Claims Handling Society on that - too busy dow the Golf/Atheneum/Commercial "Lawyers" [Delete as applicable] Club).

    However there is a nice up an coming program on how difficult the life is of the CPS (read Govt.) in getting the rest of prosecutions they haven't already got that they need / desire ........

    You couldn't have made this up in the Eastern Block forty years ago.

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  • A very small tip of a very large iceberg.
    I grieve for the serious miscarriages of justice. My experience is that generally CPS are not only deplorably late in giving disclosure, but highly resistant to giving anywhere near sufficient or adequate disclosure of material which glaringly screams out to be disclosed.
    Someone should drop a hint to certain members of the CPS of their duty to conduct disclosure in a “fair, objective and thorough manner” - not my words, but the joint words of the Lord Chief Justice and The Attorney General.

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  • Jules, shout it to the skies - Law Society, SRA, CPS, magistrates ... No-one will 'drop a hint' without a big shove

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  • This is the most unbalanced report I have read in a long time. Who exactly is the CPS to engage with? Itself? Red arrow me if you please and just for fancy but when was it ever possible to get a Defence solicitor on the phone with ease? The CPS has its work cut out for it on this one. I should be keen to see how the "..CPS further improv[es] .. the system ..alongside the police and court service [without the Defence!]" Good luck

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  • The Criminal procedure rules of course only apply to the defence .
    Every miscarriage of justice in the last 30 years has been founded upon an inability or unwillingness to properly disclose evidence to the defence or alternatively tactically disclose on a drip feed basis until the very point when the cps close a case.
    If you have the temerity to raise this as an issue or to seek that the rules apply both ways you are seen as resistant to the MOJ god of progress.
    Progressing a case used to be a balancing act between the interests of the state and the individual, it would seem now to be entirely a case of the state .
    I have never in 30 years been more depressed at the way in which the respect in which our instituions and the law ii self is being eroded largely as a result of the failure of the state to understand that the law is about people , defendants victims lawyers .
    Because of that it is by neccesity messy and dysfunctional and is not simply a case of boxticking.
    I recently asked a ct to adjourn a first instance guilty plea for one week to accomodate a holiday i had prebooked and to allow time to obtain a reference from a absent employer.
    I was told by way of refusal that statistics are such the ct couldnt accomodate the request .We are clearly more interested in statistics then justice!

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