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


Third supplementary memorandum submitted by the Crown Prosecution Service

  On 25 June 2009 the CPS published information on the costings methodology used to support the deployment of Crown Advocates (not printed) (http://www.westminter.gov.uk/councilgovernmentanddemocracy/councils/decisionmaking/enforcement.cfm)

CPS ADVOCACY QUALITY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

ISSUE

  1.  The purpose of the paper is to provide information on the implementation of the CPS Advocacy Quality Management Strategy.

BACKGROUND

  2.  The Advocacy Strategy Programme (ASP) was established in April 2005 with the aim of transforming the CPS into a Service that routinely conducts its own high quality advocacy in all courts, and across the full range of cases.

  3.  Quality has always been an integral part of this vision and the Service's approach to deploying in-house advocates. A range of mechanisms have previously been used to ensure advocacy quality, including the CPS staff Performance Appraisal System and the receipt of judicial and court user feedback. The role of the judiciary in providing such feedback was formalised in November 2007 with the implementation of the "Protocol for Routine Liaison Meetings between Resident Judges and Chief Crown Prosecutors", issued jointly by the CPS and the Senior Presiding Judge.

  4.  The Service's significant increase in the volume and range of hearings dealt with by in-house advocates has now led to the formal establishment of a structured Advocacy Quality Management Strategy. This will provide a cohesive and nationally consistent approach to assessing, monitoring and supporting the further development of in-house advocates.

The Advocacy Quality Management Strategy (AQMS)

  5.   Implementation of the AQMS began with the development and introduction of the Crown Advocate (CA) Progression Framework in all CPS Areas in July 2008. This Framework categorises all CPS CAs into one of four Levels, which identify the skills, competences and usual range of work that is expected of advocates at each stage of their professional development. These Levels are aligned with those used by the CPS in grading members of the self-employed Bar who are instructed in prosecution work.

  6.   The operation of the Framework is now to be underpinned by a national system for advocacy assessment and the provision of targeted training for the support and further development of CPS in-house advocates, in both the Crown Court and the magistrates' courts.

  7.   The national advocacy assessment system will be implemented by a network of internally appointed, dedicated Advocacy Assessors. The network will comprise of one Advocacy Assessor for each of the 15 CPS Groups (with two for CPS London and CPS West Midlands). These will be supplemented by independent External Assessors who will:

    — Complete a proportion of advocacy assessment each year, enabling a comparison of findings and ensuring objectivity and consistency; and

    — Quality assure the performance of the internal assessors.

  8.    Advocates are to be assessed against the National Standards of Advocacy, which were revised in September 2008 and which are published on the CPS website. The results of assessments conducted across the Groups will be monitored centrally on a quarterly basis and reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

CPS Involvement in the Legal Services Commission QAA Pilot

  9.  Since 2006 the Ministry of Justice/LSC have been developing a quality assurance scheme for all publicly funded criminal defence advocates working in the Crown Courts and above. The QAA Scheme (as it is referred to) is being developed in partnership with the Bar Council, Law Society, Bar Standards Board, Solicitors Regulation Authority, Legal Services Commission and Ministry of Justice. The initial recommendation was for the QAA Scheme to be in place by April 2007 but progress has been slower than anticipated.

  10.   In December 2008, the Director of Public Prosecutions indicated his support for a set of common standards which apply to all advocates, whether in-house or external, and whether acting for the defence or the prosecution, on the basis that it would contribute to driving up standards across the board and makes it easier for advocates to move across the public and private sectors. Supported by the senior judiciary, the CPS proposed that the QAA and CPS schemes should move towards convergence within an agreed timeframe.

  11.   To that end, the CPS is working closely with the Legal Services Commission to bring about consistent approaches to grading and assessment based on similar standards and criteria.

  12.   The intention is that there should be convergence between the QAA and CPS Schemes by Summer 2010 if possible, although the timeframe is not fixed. A converged scheme would share the following common features:

    — common levels (1-4);

    — common/comparable core competencies; and

    — common/comparable assessment methods.

  13.   The CPS is involved in the QAA Pilot, which is now underway. The QAA Pilot schemes are taking place in London, Birmingham, Winchester and Cardiff. The CPS is continuing its involvement with in-house advocates participating in those pilots.

  14.   The CPS also maintains representation on the QAA Reference and Working Groups. These are monitoring the pilot schemes and will, in due course, consider the appropriateness of various assessment tools for advocacy quality.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

CPS Internal Advocacy Assessors (IAAs)

  15.  The recruitment process of IAAs is nearly complete with applications sought from suitably experienced Crown Advocates.

  16.   Successful applicants will devote 75% of their time to the Assessor role within their Group. They will be expected to spend the remainder of their time on operational Crown Court advocacy-related duties within their Area-Group to maintain their own levels of skill and experience.

  17.   The Project Team is finalising Instructions and Guidance to Assessors and managing the final preparation of training for the IAAs. The aim is to have all IAAs appointed and trained by the end of July 2009, and the project is on target to achieve this.

Procurement of External Assessors

  18.   The procurement process for the engagement of External Advocacy Assessors is underway and responses are currently undergoing the final stages of evaluation. The External Service Provider selected will be one of a number of highly regarded Law Schools. The project is on target to have External Advocacy Assessor arrangements in place by the end of July 2009.

Advocacy Strategy Programme

18 June 2009






 
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