The Crown Prosecution Service: Gatekeeper of the Criminal Justice System - Justice Committee Contents


Memorandum submitted by the Association of Chief Police Officers

  This paper is the Association of Chief Police Officers response to the Justice Committee Inquiry into the Crown Prosecution Service. In particular it addresses: "How the CPS contributes to, and fits into the Criminal Justice System and how does it relate to and share information with the police."

  1.  Lord Justice Auld's Review of the criminal courts in England and Wales in 2001 recommended that the CPS should determine the charge to be brought against a suspect in all but minor routine cases, to ensure the charge was correct from the outset, to weed out non-viable cases at an early stage and ensure that remaining cases were ready for trial at the point of charge.

  2.  Following the Auld Review, new legislative arrangements for statutory charging were introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which shifted the responsibility for key charging decisions from the police to the CPS by amending the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (the Act).

  3.  This statutory charging initiative signified a significant shift in the way in which Police and CPS worked together, both at a local operational level and at a national strategic level and signalled the start of the prosecution team ethos between both agencies. It was a significant, unparalleled, collaborative project between two organisations that historically had not fully trusted each other.

  4.  Under the banner of the Prosecution Team Change and Delivery Board (formally the Charging Operations Board) senior representatives from ACPO and CPS have worked closely together, supported by a joint team of operationally skilled area co-ordinators, to introduce substantial change in business processes, and reaped real and measurable benefits year on year during the course of this journey. The membership of this board also consists of senior members of HMCS, NPIA and Office of Criminal Justice Reform.

  5.  The joint Police/CPS `National Prosecution Team' has continued to oversee and support the application of Statutory Charging, and related reform initiatives impacting on the start of the criminal justice process, including Conditional Cautioning, Criminal Justice: Simple, Speedy, Summary (CJSSS), and more recently, the Streamlined Process for magistrates court cases.

  6.  By establishing the collaborative brand of the National Prosecution Team, we have been extraordinarily successful in changing entrenched working practices across both police and CPS, and have overcome significant cultural hurdles in both organisations to implement and operate new CJ initiatives and improve performance.

ALIGNING TARGETS

  7.  Recommendation 22 of the Flanagan Report recommended the need to ensure that targets and performance indicators for the Police and CPS are brought into alignment and set against the core objective of convicting the guilty. Following the publication of the Flanagan Report in February 2008, urgent work was undertaken by the National Prosecution Team in consultation with HO, NPIA and AGO to align targets.

  8.  The Assessments of Policing and Community Safety (APACS), the police performance framework, and the CPS performance management framework have now been aligned around the new Tier 1 and Tier 2 OBTJ rate measures. The broad Sanction Detection rate has been subordinated within APACS to a diagnostic measure, whilst the CPS has similarly decided to subordinate its attrition and discontinuance targets to diagnostic measures, thus removing the source of reported tension. As a result, both the police and CPS are working to deliver the same outcomes; forces and CPS areas are measured against the same performance indicators; and both are working together as a prosecution team to detect and bring to justice a greater proportion of serious crimes.

JOINT THEMATIC REVIEW OF CHARGING

  9.  In November 2008, HMIC and HMCPSI published their thematic review of charging. Whilst acknowledging the benefits of the new charging arrangements, Inspectors made a number of recommendations to substantially refine some aspects of the scheme, particularly to provide investigators with more timely and proportionate access to prosecutors; to address conflicting targets; and improve performance management.

PROSECUTION TEAM PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT (PTPM)

  10.  PTPM is a joint process developed by the Prosecution Team to support the application of the Statutory Charging arrangements. It uses current data from the CPS Case Management System (CMS) to monitor the throughput and outcomes of cases passing through the charging centre into the criminal justice system. A recent development has been to provide data on improving the charge to non-prosecution rate, which is now a new diagnostic measure within APACS.

  11.  Pursuing a recommendation contained in the recent Joint Thematic Review of Charging, a project is shortly to be launched to re-invigarate the PTPM process to assist local police and CPS managers improve performance.

National Prosecution Team Projects

  12.  Detailed below are the key projects the National Prosecution Team are committed to delivering.

MODERNISING CHARGING

  13.  The National Prosecution Team are developing plans to Modernise Charging to improve and re-engineer the way that Statutory charging is delivered to the police as well as the use of telephony and IT based systems. This programme of work takes forward the joint Inspectorates' recommendation to improve access.Tests will commence in four Areas between November 2008 and April 2009. They will seek to introduce a more responsive Statutory Charging service that guarantees direct 24/7 access for Police Investigators to Duty Prosecutors.

  14.  The proposed solutions will deliver Statutory Charging through a range of face to face, telephony and electronic exchange methods depending on the type of casework involved and seeks to improve:

  15.  The responsiveness/timeliness of Charging to the police— offering all Officers direct contact with a Prosecutor at any time through an `always-on' service; face to face meetings will be available in appropriate cases.

  16.  The quality of decision-enabling a proportionate level of service, tailored to the type of crime and the decision sought; and,

  17.  Productivity—ensuring the best use and match of available Police Investigators and Duty Prosecutor time on Statutory Charging

STREAMLINED PROCESS (SP)

  18.  SP forms part of the overall CJSSS programme of work. The Police Service had participated successfully in the piloting and rollout of CJSSS during 2006/07 but recognised that they did not have the resources to sustain their contribution due to the amount of preparation required to enable the 1st hearing to be effective. A key aim of SP is the reduction in time taken to prepare a prosecution case file, freeing up officer time to return to other duties. Under SP, proportionate and consistent file preparation will produce a file which has sufficient information to determine the appropriate charge; allow the defence to take instructions and to enter a guilty plea if appropriate and for the bench to understand the nature of the case and to assist in either sentencing or case management where a not guilty plea is entered.

  19.  The expected benefits from the Streamlined Process are;

  20.  A reduction in police officer and administrative staff time taken to prepare a prosecution file.

  21.  Little or no detrimental impact on the guilty plea rate at first hearing.

  22.  Little or no increase in the number of adjournments before trial.

  23.  The Streamlined Process (SP) was developed by the National Prosecution Team following short pilots of similar arrangements in London and Gloucestershire under a Quick Process scheme in 2007. SP, which is a refinement of the original Quick Process scheme commenced in Spring 08 in seven test Areas. Full coverage is now in place three of these Test Areas (including London) and plans are now well established for SP to be introduced fully across the remaining Basic Command Units (BCUs) in the four remaining Test Areas.

VIRTUAL COURTS

  24.  The Virtual Court couples video-conferencing and electronic document management to directly link police custody suites with magistrates' courts for first hearings. London CJB ran a prototype Virtual Court in the summer of 2007 at Camberwell Green which was judged a success by an independent evaluation and demonstrated the potential to reducing the time by which a first hearing can be taken to an average of 3-4 hours from time of charge.

  25.  A national pilot of the Virtual Court model has been agreed. The pilot sites will be London and Kent. Both pilot sites are expected to commence in March 2009, but this is subject to procurement time scales around the technical aspects.

  26.  The London pilot will cover the central and south east areas and will run for 12 months. The Kent pilot will cover the Medway area and will also run for 12 months.

January 2009





 
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