Memorandum submitted by the Public and
Commercial Services Union
JUSTICE COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO THE CROWN
1. The Public and Commercial Services Union
(PCS) is the largest civil service trade union representing over
300,000 members working in most government departments, non-departmental
public bodies, agencies and privatised areas.
2. PCS represents almost 3,000 members employed
in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). We are therefore in a
unique position to submit evidence as part of this inquiry as
our members are employed by the organisation and understand its
strengths and provide information on where it could improve, to
serve the public and the criminal justice system better.
3. PCS welcome the committee's inquiry as
an opportunity to raise our concerns about the resourcing of the
CPS and also respond to the committee's terms of reference. We
would also be happy to supplement this written submission with
oral evidence or further written evidence.
4. This submission looks at:
How the CPS contributes to and fits into
the Criminal Justice System and whether it is providing a timely
and consistent service across the country.
How effectively the CPS operate and serves
its customershow does it communicate with victims and witnesses.
Whether the different staff functions
support effective case management.
Whether decision-making on charges or
whether to prosecute are effective.
How the CPS contributes and fits into the Criminal
Justice System and its service across the country
5. The members we represent generally enjoy
good working relationship with the various Police forces, Court
Service staff, Probation Service, defence solicitors and witness
service. Though the role of the latter has caused uncertainty
and friction in the crown court due to the nature of the duties,
which have traditionally be undertaken by crown court caseworkers.
6. Relationships can be strained, which
we believe are avoidable, in workplaces where CPS and Police staff
are co-located. Situations where this arises include Witness Care
Units (WCUs), Integrated Prosecution Teams (IPT) and other locations
both in Police and CPS estate premises.
7. PCS believe the strain is primarily due
to under-resourcing of both the Police and CPS, which causes excessive
workloads, however we believe the strain is also due to a lack
of demarcation between staff's roles and duties.
8. This close working relationship also
leads to excessive pressure on CPS staff from police officers
for work to be done or decisions made quickly, sometimes inappropriately
which has led to cases of workplace bullying in co-located sites.
An audit we conducted using the management standards produced
by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2007 showed that 25%
of staff (including lawyers) working in IPT workplaces felt they
had or were being bullied. This issue has sadly not been addressed
by management, despite repeated representation from us.
9. We contend that this is unacceptable
and would call on the CPS and the Police to provide adequate resourcing,
clear roles and separate estate premises.
10. We also believe that the CPS should
be an independent prosecuting body, with its own staff in its
own offices, taking decisions of the appropriate charges to lay
in criminal cases, and prosecuting criminal cases in the Courts.
11. In 2001 Sir Ian Glidewell made recommendations
to co-locate CPS and Police staff for the sake of efficiency savings.
External pressures for efficiency savings (generally the Police)
have driven the London Criminal Justice Board to drive on with
a change programmeIPTs which co-locate CPS staff in police
stations. They then take on a greater proportion of case building
work. We know from our members that this approach is creating
problems for CPS staff, as far from having increased administrative
budgets, CPS areas are working within a flat cash settlement,
3.5% year on year savings, plus job cuts.
12. The CPS has 42 areas across England
and Wales, aligned with the local police authorities. Each area
is headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP) who is responsible
for the delivery of a prosecution service to his or her local
community. A "virtual" 43rd area, CPS Direct (CPSD),
is also headed by a CCP and provides out-of-hours charging decisions
to the police. Three casework divisions, based in headquarters,
deal with the prosecution of serious organised crime, terrorism
and other specialised prosecution cases.
13. Each CCP is supported by an Area Business
Manager (ABM), and their respective roles mirror, at a local level,
the responsibilities of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)
and Chief Executive. Administrative support to areas is provided
through a network of business centres.
14. A review of the CPS area organisation
took place in 2007, which resulted in reforms to enhance the existing
area structure. 41 of the 42 existing CPS areas were re-organised
into 15 "groups" (CPS London was excluded).
15. The groups have been given a remit to
"deliver measurable improvements across a range of functions".
The CPS areas within the group retain their internal structure
and management (retaining their CCP and ABM) however each regional
group is overseen by a group strategy board, chaired by a senior
CCP, and supported by a senior ABM. The board consists of the
other CCPs and ABMs within the group. The reform was designed
to "improve the resilience and effectiveness of the Service
and its capability to deliver a world class prosecution service
and meet the challenges of the future".
16. We feel however that the latest reform
is simply a low cost attempt to regain central control lost a
number of years ago when the CPS devolved from 13 regional areas
(approximately mirroring the current Group jurisdictions). This
places a middle tier of 15 group chairs (who also retain the management
of their own area), between the local areas and CPS headquarters.
17. Additionally each regional group includes
a group operations centre (GOC) which is tasked to deliver common
services and a complex casework unit. These both have their own
internal management structures, but the lead ABM and CCP provides
18. The effectiveness of these regional
groups, their operations centers and complex casework units is
questionable at present, as they only became effective in April
and in many cases their roles and responsibilities are still unclear.
The work, systems and processes which are group chair led and
GOC managed as opposed to those retained at an area or unit level
are often a cause for confusion among the workforce.
19. LCJBs bring together the chief officers
of local criminal justice agencies to deliver the Public Service
Agreement (PSA) targets in their area and to drive through criminal
20. All LCJBs have produced delivery plans
to bring more offenders to justice, reduce ineffective trials
and increase public confidence. Progress on the plans is reported
to the National Criminal Justice Board (NCJB), the Attorney General,
Solicitor General, DPP and CPS Chief Executive, along with the
Home Secretary, Secretary of State for Justice and others who
are also members of the NCJB
21. Although there is general knowledge
of the existence of LCJBs the link and influence of the boards
on operational and front-line work and the staff undertaking it
(mainly caseworkers, associate prosecutors (lay advocates), administrators
and managers) tends to be unclear.
22. Issues of governance have arisen; in
particular in London in IPT pilot sites where CPS staff are working
alongside Metropolitan Police staff having absorbed much of the
duties previously undertaken by Police criminal justice units.
There is a lack of clear guidance about what duties have been
transferred and the workload involved has lead to serious staffing
issues, which have been exacerbated by budget cuts and introduction
of other initiatives alongside IPT such as OBM.
23. It has also been unclear about the independence
of the CPS when our members are working so closely alongside the
Police. Public perception of CPS independence may be affected
once they become more aware of the recent close working relationships
between the Police and CPS. Even if the public are not concerned
about the CPS decision making process being so close to Police,
prosecutors may suggest that CPS is not as separated and independent
in its decision making process as previously thought.
24. PCS also believe that the close working
relationships LCJBs allow has created a situation where different
parts of the criminal justice system start vying for the work
done by their LCJB partners. The CPS chief operating officer recently
informed PCS that some constabularies were actively seeking to
take over the administrative work undertaken by PCS members in
CPS, in a reversal of the IPT, where CPS staff have absorbed duties
of their colleagues in the Metropolitan Police. We speculate that
this is probably as a result of the Flanagan Report.
25. If this is realised then the future
for a separate and independent CPS is bleak and we believe this
would be a retrograde step back to the pre-CPS days of prosecution
solicitors receiving their files directly from Police with limited
decision making and input about charging.
How effectively the CPS operates and serves its
26. At the end of March 2008 the CPS employed
a total of 8,351 people, 54 fewer than at the same time the previous
year. This includes 2,913 prosecutors and 4,946 caseworkers and
administrators. Over 91% of all staff are engaged in, or support,
frontline prosecutions. The CPS has 945 prosecutors able to appear
in the crown court and on cases in the higher courts and 419 associate
prosecutors (formerly known as designated caseworkers) able to
present cases in the magistrates' courts.
27. While we agree to with the content and
spirit of the CPS vision statement, PCS believe that the lack
of resourcing makes the goals unrealistic as excessive pressure
is being placed on staff, both at the front line and in local
area, group and headquarters functions.
28. Our members' experience is that reactive
and often punitive HR management practices regularly prevail over
supportive and developmental management. We believe that managers
are under increasing pressure trying to manage their staff effectively
and deliver on targets that they often have little or no control
over, while increasingly having to fire-fight, plus take on the
work of their absent or overworked staff. In the 2008 "Help
shape our future" staff survey less than four in 10 CPS
managers felt they had the time to focus on managing.
29. These concerns about excessive stress
are reflected in both the CPS 2008 biannual staff survey and the
HSE work related stress audit which was conducted in late 2007.
2008 STAFF SURVEY
30. Most staff reported there are simply
not enough staff to do the work. This year, in the latest bi-annual
staff survey conducted by the CPS, with our support and endorsement
only a quarter of the 5,000 respondents thought there were enough
staff to get the job done and this fell to just 9% in London IPT
sites, where CPS workers find themselves working in Police stations
performing police administration duties on top of their own.
31. Other results from the 2008 "Help
shape our future" staff survey, support our concerns
that the CPS is facing a dangerous level of under resourcing and
Only 41% of staff felt comfortable with
the pressure placed on them (against the government benchmark
Over half feel they have to work excessive
hours to get tasks completed.
Only one in five employees feel that
the CPS does enough to reduce the risks to work related stress.
Only 57% felt they had the right work/life
balance (against the government benchmark of 46%).
Only 57% of front line staff felt that
the service they provided was good, due to lack of resources and
excessive stress (dropping to 45% in London).
Only 25% feel that the CPS is taking
steps to reduce work related stress.
32. Self declaration questions on unpaid
overtime and extra hours worked shows that for overtime, the extra
hours staff worked would equate to between 38 and 55 extra staff
being employed by the CPS. For hours of unpaid work, this would
equate to between 109 and 169 additional staff for the CPS.
33. PCS recently carried out a stress audit
on a wide range of our members across the department. In total
we audited 250 members, using the HSE's management standards for
work related stress. The results were alarming and showed excessive
stress levels across all root causes. The management standards
include a toolkit questionnaire for measuring stress, which places
the root causes of stress into five categories or "stressors".
34. The results for the representative sample
of 250 CPS staff showed that by HSE standards, there was "clear
need for improvement" in control, management support and
peer support and "urgent action" needed in job demands,
relationships, role and change.
35. The results also show higher levels
of work related stress in workplaces where our staff work regularly
outside of the CPS office, eg in Police stations and court centres.
Despite the clear evidence of excessive stress levels at work,
we believe that the CPS has failed to address this issue. Requests
by the union for a full audit of staff, a system for managing
and reducing stress and an improved Occupational Health Service
have been not been acted upon so far.
36. Despite the resource cuts and pay restraint
for civil and public servants, the CPS continues to spend vast
sums of money on the private sector, with over £4.5 million
being spent on consultant's fees alone in the last financial year.
Many of whom, we would argue are doing the work of civil servants
at a cost of many times their salary or who provide little or
no value to the service.
37. PCS strongly believe that the CPS should
have responsibility nationally for witness care, and be funded
accordingly. The position across the country is mixed, with some
CPS areas providing nearly all the WCU staff and others providing
just a token presence. Across the department CPS staff make up
only 30% of the staff in WCUs.
38. In the 2007-08 CPS annual report it
acknowledged that since the introduction of WCUs, ineffective
trials due to missing witnesses has fallen by 63% in the Crown
Court and 14% in the Magistrates Court. Overall, attendance rates
increased by 78% to 84%.
39. Where CPS provides WCU staff, PCS members
send letters to witnesses asking for dates to avoid, speak to
them over the phone if there are any problems or special needs
and warn them about the failure to attend court. PCS members also
help draft letters to victims in cases where there was an adverse
40. A PCS WCU survey conducted in 2006,
along with the CPS staff attitudinal survey identified problems
in WCUs linked to inadequate resources; such as long hours, stress
and cultural issues between CPS and Police staff. They also identified
other problems including inadequate IT, training and accommodation.
Staff functions and effective case management
41. Effective case management used to be
seen as cradle to the grave file ownership for prosecutors and
caseworkers alike. It instilled a greater personal responsibility
towards the timely and effective preparation of the case for trial
and we believe as a direct consequence of diminishing resources,
CPS has sought to achieve greater efficiencies through initiatives
that do not always complement each other.
42. Creating separate crown advocate units
(that take crown court cases after the plea and case management
hearing), case progression units (that liaise with the courts,
lawyers and caseworkers on how far the case has been prepared)
and now optimum business model "pods", (a more resource
intensive push for "pod staff" to get all trial files
trial ready two weeks in advance of hearing), it can be seen that
the emphasis has shifted away from file ownership.
43. Another cause of the change to OBM is
that prosecutors have high in-house advocacy targets, so are rarely
in the office to work on their own files. Crown advocates (in
the crown court) also have a high in-house coverage target and
can decide to return a case to the reviewing lawyer and caseworker,
often with little time left before trial.
44. Lines of responsibility and accountability
have become blurred, and the allocated reviewing lawyer's decision
may be reversed by the crown advocate, while communication of
the crown advocate's decision (maybe a letter to the victim about
discontinuance) will still rest with the reviewing lawyer.
Effective decision-making on charges and whether
45. Before charging a defendant and proceeding
with a prosecution, crown prosecutors must first review each case
against the code for crown prosecutors. The code sets out the
principles the CPS applies when carrying out its work. The principles
There is enough evidence to provide a
realistic prospect of conviction against each defendant on each
charge; and, if so.
A prosecution is needed under the public
46. Decisions on charging are generally
seen as effective and the DPP has stated in the 2007-08 CPS annual
report that as a result guilty plea rates have increased by 85%
in the magistrates' courts and 20% in the crown courts. PCS acknowledges
that whilst effective, we have concerns at the efficiency of part
of this deliveryCPS Direct.
47. Charging lawyers at CPSD on average,
advise on less than four cases per working shift. While we fully
support charging and believe it has been the driver behind narrowing
the justice gap we do not agree with Sir Ronnie Flanagan's' recommendation
to shift charging in all but the most serious of cases back to
48. We fear that his antagonistic position
exists because of the difference in targets of both the CPS and
the Police. The target for the Police is around "detection
rates" (they secure the charge and what comes after it including
the trial is seen as an added burden) and the CPS targets to reduce
attrition rates (by charging only evidentially strong cases).
49. We are also concerned by his recommendation
(22b) that the Home Office and Attorney General consider alignment
of both organisations' objectives. We believe that this would
not address the central problem, that the Police are not best
suited to decide what evidence is required to prove a charge.
This is the job for the CPS as an independent authority which
was set up to prosecute criminal cases investigated by the Police
in England and Wales.
50. We agree that partnership work should
continue, however co-locating staff in Police stations, in an
already stressed environment, does nothing to improve the effective
processing and charging of cases and would request that the committee
make representations to support our concerns. We also strongly
believe that witness care needs to be delivered by CPS staff nationally
and funded properly. This would improve the attendance rates and
participation of witnesses.
51. PCS believe the CPS is generally working
effectively, however this is at the expense of its staff who are
excessively stressed and under-resourced. This submission details
our concerns and we would hope the committee can take these up
with Attorney General and the incoming DPP to ensure that our
members are afforded the proper resources to deliver an effective