The Crown Prosecution Service should consider publishing a regular newsletter to address perceptions that promotions are limited to London-based staff.
A report by inspectors on the CPS's special crime and counter-terrorism division published today found that there was 'little difference' in the levels of engagement, management visibility and whether staff 'felt part of the division' between the teams based in London, York and Warrington. 'However, there were some views expressed that at certain levels, opportunities for promotion were limited to those who were based in London', it says.
Inspectors were told that some staff in York had managers located in London, 'and we were told that this had a negative impact on senior management visibility, contact and engagement'.
The report says: 'With the current smarter working practices that are used in the CPS, this may be a limitation of culture as opposed to the reality of business need. The newly appointed head of division may wish to ensure that, where practical, all posts are advertised nationally to ensure the development of the best talent across the division and change the perception that opportunities are restricted.'
Inspectors suggest a regular newsletter covering all aspects of the business 'would help consolidate the "whole Division identity" and break down some of the perceptions that exist between the York and London teams'.
Staff told inspectors that managers were generally concerned about staff welfare and regularly look for ways to improve this. The report says the division recently ran a series of courses for all staff on mental health issues and there are plans to hold another round, 'as the uptake was extensive'. According to last year's Civil Service People Survey, 93% of staff in the division felt their manager was considerate of their life outside of work and 78% felt the CPS was committed to supporting employees' health and wellbeing.
However, the report adds, this was not a universal view. 'In interviews with some staff engaged on distinct long-term cases, it was unclear to them that there were specific plans to routinely deal with welfare and mental wellbeing issues. The division needs to make sure that its plans for staff engaged on long-term cases are applied and effective. This will ensure that they are suitably supported and that their welfare and mental wellbeing are maintained,' the inspectorate said.
The division, set up in 2016, has almost 150 staff. In 2017-18, the special crime unit prosecuted 98 cases and achieved a 76.9% conviction rate in the Crown court and 71.4% in the magistrates' court. The counter terrorism unit prosecuted 92 cases and achieved a 99% Crown court conviction rate, and 88.9% in the magistrates' court. The appeals and review unit reviewed 527 cases under the Victims' Right to Review scheme.
HM chief inspector Kevin McGinty said the division is a 'good example of the CPS working effectively and to a high standard. Senior leaders and all those in the division deserve credit for their commitment to high standards and continuous improvement'.