Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
QC, MR RICHARD
TUESDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2002
40. Have you any figures in terms of hard numbers
rather than statistics for the number of cases that have failed
to be taken on the day they are planned as a result of a police
witness failing to attend court at the right time or on the right
(Mr Przybylski) I would like to be able to give you
the hard numbers, but I have got a chart that shows me the proportion.
In the Crown Court, for example, we analyse cases that are called
"judge ordered acquittals" and these are cases that
proceed to trial but, as the case is called on, we find that that
we cannot proceed for one reason or another. One of the reasons
that we cannot proceed is because a witness is missing, refuses
or is unable to give evidence, withdraws their complaintall
these sorts of issues. About 5 per cent of judge ordered acquittals
are lost for those reasons.
41. This is police witnesses in particular,
or this is all witnesses?
(Mr Przybylski) This is all witnesses. We do have
some figures, but only held locally. I am sure mention has been
made already, about the way that the organisation is ramping up
its IT capacity, and very shortly we hope to have some pretty
sophisticated information being brought back.
42. Would you be able to present us with that?
(Mr Przybylski) We cannot yet. By 2004 I will be able
to do that.
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Perhaps I could interrupt Mr Przybylski
and just say this, we do get a kind of snapshot, area-by-area,
from the Inspectorate, who do actually record the failure of police
witnesses to attend when they are looking at their sample of files
which they examine. They home in, not surprisingly, on cases that
fail for one reason or another and try to analyse the reasons.
There is always a small but noticeable number of cases which fail
for the reason you have just mentioned, but it would be quite
wrong to try, without the sophisticated data that our new IT system
will be able to throw up, to say that it is X or Y per cent, let
alone a hard number. It is a very rare but persistent feature.
43. We look forward to 2004 then.
(Mr Przybylski) If I could add, we are alive to the
issue and we are trying to do something about it at a local level.
In each area we are operating a system called joint performance
management with the police, and one of the areas that we look
at are those cases that are discontinued and those cases that
do not succeed in the Crown Court because they are a judge ordered
acquittal. We look both at the offence type of those cases and,
also, about 25 recurring reasons for an unsuccessful outcome.
That information is captured at local level. What we do not have
is the capacity to draw it all back into the centre.
44. Particularly in instances of theft of mobile
phones, hardly a day goes by without press reports in London and
elsewhere about thuggery, if I can use that expression, in order
to steal mobile phones. How seriously is this being taken by your
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Extremely seriously. We are working
together with the police, who unsurprisingly are taking the lead
since they investigate the cases, on schemes whereby particular
hot-spots (as I think they are known in the current jargon) are
targeted by the police and suitable resources made available by
the CPS so that if the police do carry out a major operation,
shall we say, in a particular London borough, where there is particular
prevalence of, shall we say, theft of mobile phones or street
mugging generally, we can bring the appropriate response to bear.
There is also, I believe, in the wings a project to be headed
by Mr Denham of the Home Office which will target persistent youth
offenders. A very large number of the offences that you have just
described as theft of mobile telephones are carried out by youths,
who of course need special treatment in the sense that there is
a different legal system.
45. Did you see the report in last night's Evening
Standard where a 12-year old person with her 7-year old sister
and a cousin, the 12-year was actually knifed and the mother thought
her daughter was dying? Fortunately, that was not the position.
Apart from the actual stealing of the mobile phone, the child
could have been murdered.
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Absolutely.
46. If this was such a unique case one would
hesitate to raise it, but it is not so unique.
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Not unique at all.
47. That is why I am asking, Director, if in
fact those sorts of cases are really being given seriousness when
it comes to prosecution casework, which is absolutely essential
for parents to feel that their children are safe on the streets?
(Mr Calvert-Smith) An unequivocal yes.
48. One other problem, as I understand it, is
that when cases come to court the person who is alleged to have
committed the offence can be bailed up to eight or nine times,
and then there is the accusation that there is intimidation of
witnesses; youngsters are told that if they give evidence in court
they will know what is going to happen to them. How is that going
to be dealt with by the police?
(Mr Calvert-Smith) As you say, that is a police matter.
The only thing that the Crown Prosecution Service can add to the
process is to be rigorous in examining decisions to grant bail,
and where we believe there is a respectable argument for repealing
that decision to do so. That is something, clearly, our lawyers,
particularly in London but in other metropolitan centres as well,
will be homing in on so that if there really are grounds for a
secure remand for the youth in questionif it is a youthor
a remand in custodyif it is an adultthen we do not
necessarily take the magistrates' decision lying down and appeal
to the Crown Court.
49. When I spoke about eight or nine times someone
being given bail, that arose from evidence on the 5th of this
month from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John
Stevens. I wonder if it would be possible to give us a note, if
the Chairman has no objection, about cases where this has actually
happened, where it has happened and how frequently a person or
group of people could actually, having been charged, be given
bail, say, over six times. Would that be at all possible?
(Mr Calvert-Smith) I am sure that if I were to speak
to any Crown Prosecutor in London he or she would be able to come
up with particular incidents. Trying to do it on a more comprehensive
basis, I think, would be very difficult.
(Mr Przybylski) I think the Director is right to say
that prosecutors will be able to provide anecdotal information
but we do not have the infrastructure to be able to capture that
sort of information as yet. We are hoping to get that, but we
do not have it yet.
50. I think it is the police, anyway, that can
provide the evidence. Northumberland Police, I recall when Sir
John Stevens was Chief Constable, did research in relation to
Northumberland which showed that repeat offenders were being bailed
eight or nine times, sometimes re-offending as soon as they left
the door of the court. There is an issue about the shortage of
secure accommodation, which is one of the big difficulties, is
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Yes, it is.
51. Also, it is an indication of how far you
feel that things are being dealt with effectively, so that, again
(I repeat what I said earlier), parents can have some confidence
that their children can go about with mobile phones or otherwise
without the sort of incident to which the article last night in
the paper referred.
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Absolutely. It may be pertinent
to say that there has been a good deal of comment recently about
the remarks that the Lord Chief Justice made in a sentence review
case dealing with street mugging. All the Crown Prosecution Service
(and then the Attorney General who took the reference) was actually
seeking to do was to uphold what is the current tariff for street
theft because street theft, and you pointed to a particular case
in last night's paper, is almost invariably accompanied by actual
52. We hear on the bulletins this morning that
the Government take persistent offenders so seriously that they
are announcing a policy shift later to tag persistent offenders
between the ages of 12 and 16 who are on bail.
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Yes.
53. Were you consulted on that policy shift
and have you a view on it?
(Mr Przybylski) We do not recall being consulted.
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Personally I cannot say that I
expressed a view. Whether somebody in my organisation dealt with
it I cannot say.
54. Would you express a view on it now, even
in a personal capacity?
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Clearly anything which, as Mr Winnick
says, makes the period between arrest and trial safer for the
public without unduly interfering with the rights of the defendant
is to be welcomed. That is assuming it works.
55. Can we turn to the ethnic make-up of the
CPS? As you will recall, it was the subject of the Denman Report
a little while ago. You are in a profession which is dominated
by white middle-class males, Mr Calvert-Smith. What plans do you
have to try to change that?
(Mr Calvert-Smith) On numbers we have set targets
area by area and I am pleased to say that the vast majority of
CPS areas are now statistically representative of their populations,
though not all, and we need increased efforts in certain areas
of the country. We have also attempted to take positive action
where that is within the law to try and encourage minority ethnic
lawyers into the organisation and to ensure that the imbalances
which continue at the higher levels of the organisation are gradually
eroded. The Equality and Diversity Unit within the Crown Prosecution
Service has wrought a remarkable transformation, I believe, not
only in helping managers to manage diversity, whether by achieving
targets for employment or achieving dignity in the workplace so
that people are treated with respect, whatever their background
or disability may be, but also in generally mainstreaming diversity
into managers' mindsand I do not exclude myself from thisbecause
diversity is something that has to be part of every initiative
that we take. I am very hopeful still that I will leave this Service
in a far better position than I found it from the point of view
that you have asked, but clearly, long after I have gone, there
will still be work to do.
56. I think everyone understands that this has
to be a gradual process but there is this extraordinary story
of the eighth and ninth floors of Croydon where some form of segregation
appeared to operate, according to the Commission for Racial Equality.
Is that true, first, and, secondly, what has been done about it?
(Mr Calvert-Smith) May I answer your second question?
I know the Chief Executive wants to come back on the first one
if he may.
57. Perhaps he would like to take the first
(Mr Foster) As you know, the Sylvia Denman report
said that the CPS was institutionally racist. That is a finding
we accept and that is a finding we have been absolutely driving
to redress. Both David and I take a personal accountability for
that. The figures are quite encouraging if you compare the CPS
with the Civil Service as a whole. Across the Civil Service 7.2
per cent of staff are from minority ethnic backgrounds. The figures
are as of October of the year just gone. Within the CPS nearly
ten per cent (9.5 per cent to be exact) of staff are from minority
ethnic backgrounds, so there are proportionately more minority
ethnic staff in the CPS than there are in the Civil Service generally.
At senior Civil Service levels, that is to say grade 5 (divisional
manager and above), the figures for the Civil Service as a whole
are 2.3 per cent whereas within the CPS the figure is nearly double
that, four per cent against a Civil Service target of 3.2 per
cent. If you look simply at the numbers we are doing better than
the Civil Service as a whole. I should add one other thing, which
is that because of what was going on prior to Sylvia Denman's
very helpful report, there are still in the pipeline a number
of cases where staff have complained of racial discrimination
and I have no doubt that there will be further industrial tribunal
cases of that kind. What I would hope is that the culture that
we have seen since July of last year is changing quite rapidly
and we are working with the CRE jointly to drive forward on that.
One final thing: we have now trained every single member of the
CPS. Every single member has been through a two-day equality and
diversity programme and we have put in place arrangements which
ensure that any new recruit into the CPS will go through similar
training. It will take a long time to change the culture but we
are determined to do so.
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Very quickly
on Croydon, the Croydon problem was the result of the merger of
two different offices of the CPS into one building. One of the
offices, because of where it had originally been physically located,
had a high proportion of minority ethnic staff. The other, again
because of where it was located, did not. What happened was that
when the offices merged staff took part in a preference exercise
as to which team (because they still covered disparate areas of
London) each member of staff wished to serve on. Unsurprisingly,
those who were used to the courts in their old area plumped for
the team which covered those courts, which led to a continuation
if you like of this imbalance. Although that was perfectly well
intentioned, it led, as you say, to a segregation and the problem
then arose that a feeling was engendered within what was then
one office of a first team and a second team if you like. It became
a common wisdom that if you wanted to get on in the CPS from the
Croydon office you had better join the first team, and insufficient
was done in the CRE's opinion, which we entirely accept, to intervene
and destroy this culture which had arisen of a first team and
a second team, although, as the CRE accepted, the situation had
come about without any malice or without any deliberate intention
to discriminate, hence no non-discrimination notice as a result
of the report, so that all CPS areas are now enjoinedand
it was very timely because we are reorganising into these criminal
justice units, trial units, and people are going through the same
sort of preference exercise: "Which unit would you like to
be in if we can arrange it?"to make sure that this
situation does not happen again and develop into this A team and
B team culture.
58. Are women well represented in the higher
levels of the Service?
(Mr Calvert-Smith) Not nearly well enough, and I am
afraid to say we have not done well enough, or as well as we had
hoped we would, so far as making the senior echelons of the Service
sufficiently representative is concerned. We are behind, I am
ashamed to say, the target set for the Civil Service generally
by the Cabinet Office. All I can say is that both Richard Foster
and I are very well aware of this and are doing everything we
can in what is not a high turnover organisation, particularly
at the top, to rectify the situation.
59. Turning to vulnerable witnesses, will the
CPS programme for direct communication with witnesses be fully
implemented by October as scheduled?
(Mr Calvert-Smith) I am confident that it will. We
have an elaborate, and I hope comprehensive, set of training initiatives
to make sure that our prosecutors and case workers are fully up
to speed with the new measures that the Act allows, and therefore,
so far as knowledge and ability to carry out the recommendations
are concerned, I am absolutely confident. There are two nagging
worries I have. One is a police worry, but of course it knocks
on to us, and they are both logistical. The first is, are we going
to manage to get this new initiative done on DVD videos or are
we going to have to make do with the old style videos which the
police, I am sure without exaggeration, suggest will require a
new warehouse almost every three months? One smiles but something
has got to be done about this if we cannot do it all digitally.
That is still an unanswered dilemma, not one that we have to answer
but there will be a knock-on effect to us. Secondly, there is
the question of how many of these video tapes will need to be
transcribed. The CPS currently transcribe, where they are required
to be transcribed, videos in child abuse cases where there is
already the facility to take evidence on video. That is a significant
resource. It is impossible to tell in advance how many of these
video interviews will need to be transcribed; hopefully very few,
because, particularly if it is DVD, it is so easy to look at the
thing and cut it and paste it, but the only two slight flies in
the ointment in my mind at the moment (which we are hopefully
going to address by October but are not quite out yet) are these
logistical problems so far as training and making people aware
of the various measures are concerned, the pre-trial meetings
and all the measures that can be taken to help witnesses give