Memorandum submitted by the Police Federation
of England and Wales
RESPONSE TO THE JUSTICE COMMITTEE PRESS NOTICE:
CALL FOR EVIDENCE; THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE
The Police Federation of England and Wales,
established by statute is the representative body for over 140,000
police officers from the rank of Constable to Chief Inspector.
Please find below our comments to the questions
asked in the above Consultation document.
How the CPS contributes to, and fits into the
Criminal Justice System-how does it relate to and share information
with the police, courts and other services, how does it work with
other prosecution agencies such as the Revenue and Customs Prosecution
Office, what is its role as regards Anti-Social Behaviour Orders,
is there an effective balance between holding it accountable and
maintaining its independence, what is the role of the Attorney
Having considered Question One we have no comment
How effectively does the CPS operate and serve
its customershow does it communicate with victims and witnesses,
how does it relate to local communities, is it providing a timely
and consistent service across the country, do the different staff
functions support effective case management, is decision-making
on charges or whether to prosecute effective, how is it managing
key areas such as prosecuting rape and domestic violence?
The primary and most repeated comment is around
the time it actually takes to see a CPS lawyer. Most forces appear
to have only the most rudimentary appointment systems which are
generally ineffective if they exist at all. I have had representatives
from several forces complaining to me of waiting several hours
to see the CPS Lawyer. This is a daily rather than an occasional
occurrence. When challenged by supervisors they have legitimately
pointed out that they did not want to "lose their place in
the queue". Given that the CPS is often only situated at
the main station in the BCU this can often involve considerable
travelling especially in rural forces. This has the added knock
on of reducing the most limited staffing levels to dangerous lows.
The fact that many officers are away from their station and computer
terminals also means it is difficult to put the waiting time to
much constructive use.
There is a perception amongst many officers
that, to use a current buzz phrase, many CPS are "risk averse"
when it comes to charging decisions and much more so than Custody
Sergeants previously were. This may be slightly unfair and I am
open to the argument that CPS lawyers have a greater understanding
of evidential requirements and tests as well as a greater understanding
of what may succeed at court. Nevertheless the feeling persists,
that while ever CPS have a target around reducing the number of
"cracked cases" they will only pursue the most certain
of cases. It is worth noting at this point that several representatives
have stated their belief that CPS is much more willing to "risk"
a charge when it is a police officer who is subject of it.
Linked to the above point around decision making
I have received several complaints around consistency and perverse
decisions. Officers have related to me when they have taken remarkably
similar cases for decisions and received opposite outcomes. Again
I am willing to concede that CPS are better trained at assessing
evidence and for seeing flaws in cases so each case may have been
correctly decided upon but the volume of these instances is high.
I am aware that much of this is written in a
negative tone and I do not think that is a totally accurate picture
as many officers in conversation point to good working relationships
but it is almost self evident that if officers contact a staff
association about something like this it will be to point out
where something has gone wrong not when it has gone well.
Another point finally to consider is CPS Direct.
In a small and simplistic survey most responses were very positive
about this service saying that on the whole this service was far
better than the one given in stations. There were a few who gave
a differing view but predominantly it was suggested expanding
this service at the expense of the station one. My obvious comment
on this would be to say that the survey was neither deep nor wide
enough to draw this conclusion but the majority of the responses
pointed this way. The major criticisms of this service centred
around logistical issues of getting both volume of evidence and
certain types of evidence to the lawyer given the infrastructure