Crown Prosecution Service inspectors have warned that the criminal justice system cannot afford more delays and inefficiency after finding that the CPS and police’s focus on improving disclosure is starting to drift.
In January, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate said the CPS’s disclosure of evidence was still sub-standard despite early signs of improvement. In a follow-up report published today, inspectors said there was evidence of improvement in some aspects of performance since the January review ‘but also of slight deterioration in some aspects’.
Cases examined by inspectors were charged on or after 1 August 2019 and listed for the Crown court up to 20 March 2020. Inspectors deliberately decided not to include cases being dealt with during lockdown. The report does not include rape cases, which is the subject of a joint inspection.
The report says: ‘This inspection shows that on a number of measures, the prosecution team partnership is under strain. The police’s compliance with the requirements is deteriorating, the CPS’s feedback has decreased, and this culminates in weaker management and handling of disclosure material. The result is a less efficient system; given the impact of the coronavirus, the last thing the criminal justice system can afford is more delays and inefficiency caused by rework.’
Following publication of the report, Jo Jakymec, CPS disclosure lead, said: 'A significant programme of joint CPS/police work is underway to make sure the cultural changes needed to drive lasting improvement to disclosure are bedding in. We’ve always said this won’t happen overnight but clearly further action is needed to provide the service the public rightly expect.
'We are pleased some progress has been made and accept the report’s recommendations for CPS in full. The forthcoming Attorney General’s guidelines, and our updated charging guidance due at the end of the year will also give further clarity and provide a catalyst for positive change.
'Working with police colleagues, our commitment to get this right remains as strong as ever and we continue to work to recruit more prosecutors to help futureproof our work around disclosure.'
Shadow attorney general Lord Falconer said: ‘With coronavirus and the CPS case backlog increasing, the last thing the criminal justice system can afford now is more delay and unfairness. That’s invariably the consequence of inadequate disclosure.’