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


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Public and Commercial Services Union

FURTHER WRITTEN SUBMISSION TO THE JUSTICE COMMITTEE INQUIRY ON THE WORK OF THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE

  1.  This further written submission seeks to clarify and expand on some of the issues raised in our initial submission (October 2008) to the inquiry and expands on up some of the points made in live evidence by PCS and other witnesses on 3 February 2009. This further submission covers:

    — 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 customers—how does it communicate with victims and witnesses.

HOW THE CPS CONTRIBUTES AND FITS INTO THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND ITS SERVICE ACROSS THE COUNTRY

Voluntary sector

  2.  While we recognise the undoubted good work done on many levels by the voluntary sector PCS feels that this has blurred the lines of role, responsibility and governance in respect of victim and witness care. In many parts of the country, this has caused concern and anxiety among CPS caseworkers and at times a degree of friction.

  3.  We believe this problem is exacerbated in many Crown Court centres by the lack of "one to one" court coverage by CPS caseworker, who can be expected to cover between two to four courts over the course of a session. This has been caused by under resourcing and we believe can only get worse as budgets are cut due to the comprehensive spending review settlements.

  4.  The work undertaken by Victim Support includes witness care in the Crown and Magistrates' Courts. Witness care and support in the Crown Court was previously undertaken solely by Crown Court Caseworkers, formerly known as `Law Clerks' (of whom PCS have sole recognition for consultation and collective bargaining purposes) and this is still a key role in a significant number of court centres.

  5.  The prosecution advocate (whether a CPS High Court Advocate or employed Barrister) has a key role in explaining the outcome of a case or consultation over the acceptance of a plea to a lesser charge or the offering of no evidence with reference to the pledge.

Integrated prosecution teams

  6.  PCS are still very concerned about adequate resourcing of the Integrated Prosecution Team (IPT) project. It is one of three issues still on the project risk register within the CPS.

  7.  We are aware that there has also been no involvement from the activity based costing team in the evaluation of the new working arrangements. We would therefore conclude that no proper measure of what extra work the CPS has taken from the Metropolitan Police has been undertaken and would recommend the committee pursue this with CPS management urgently.

  8.  Anecdotal evidence to support our view that co-location is placing an added and unbearable level of stress on our staff includes:

    — Four PCS grades are presently on long term sick leave from IPT sites.

    — Two experienced caseworkers have recently tendered their resignations, one specifically because of the increasing demands being placed on their unit.

    — One member disclosed there were increasing tensions in their office, with a breakdown in working relationships between some lawyers and police officers.

    — Rises in cases of work related stress, see para 26 for more details.

  9.  The work stress audits (using the Health and Safety Executive model) conducted at the initial IPT pilot sites revealed a need for management to take urgent action, however we have seen little evidence of this.

  10.  In a recent communication to staff in West Yorkshire, the Area Business Manager has confirmed the decision of the Area Board to relocate from police premises. A letter from the Chief Crown Prosecutor to the Chief Constable states that the co-location model cannot continue due to a lack of resources provided to CPS, which in itself has had considerable impact upon service delivery.

  11.  The economies of scale that exist in large CPS only offices enables operations to continue even if staff are absent due to annual leave, training and sickness. We strongly believe that the move to co-location across the whole of London needs to be seen in this context and not through management's narrow focus of making efficiency savings by decreasing accommodation costs.

HOW EFFECTIVELY THE CPS OPERATES AND SERVES ITS CUSTOMERS

  12.  The points below look at our concerns in relation to how effective the CPS operates and serves its customers, this includes:

    — Victims and witness concerns.

    — Witness Care Units.

    — Resourcing.

    — Effects on Areas—resources and targets.

    — CPS staff attitudinal survey 2008.

    — Work related stress.

    — Advocacy.

    — Industrial relations.

    — CPS Groups and Group Operation Centres, their remit and whether they are effective.

    — Is the CPS an employer of choice, including equality concerns and whether the CPS is a world class service.

Victim/witness concerns

  13.  Some of the concerns expressed by Mind and Victim Support in their evidence session (3 February 2009) are also supported and shared by PCS, namely about the prosecutor's pledge. We concur that there is inconsistency across the country on how this is applied, which PCS see as a result of individual Area's autonomy on how they choose to operate.

  14.  The preparation and application for "special measures" is one of a number of functions that are being passed from Lawyers to Caseworkers. Again the autonomy enjoyed by each Area means that caseworkers in some Areas have already been responsible for preparing and submitting such applications, whereas others haven't.

  15.  The capacity for CPS to cater for victims and witness needs at court is limited by resources, for instance caseworkers in London and a number of other CPS Areas regularly have more than two or three court rooms to cover. As a consequence, there is little effective monitoring of how prosecutors exert a duty of care in relation to witnesses being cross examined, as there is not often a CPS caseworker in court to observe.

Witness Care Units (WCUs)

  16.  These are teams of a mixture of CPS and police civilian staff, who are responsible for ensuring victims and witnesses are warned to attend court in good time. Any necessary special measures are put in place and in the case of victims, are notified as a result of the case.

  17.  Although there are a small number of exceptions, we find that the majority of WCU's are staffed by a significantly higher ratio of police civilians and very occasionally officers on "light duties". As the job description of the CPS and police witness care officer is identical (despite our objections), the reality is that we have two sets of workers on significantly different terms and conditions of service doing the same job. This can cause tensions, which would be avoidable if a distinction between the CPS and police civilian staff roles were to be established, in the job descriptions and functions of the role.

  18.  In addition to operational issues this has also caused disharmony in relation to HR management practices of the respective staff, where our members, more often as the minority group, feel pressured to work to the same or similar terms and conditions as police colleagues. We consider this unjust, unfair and unsustainable.

Resourcing

  19.  Following a communication from the CPS finance director, we are deeply concerned about the following:

    — 43 jobs have already been lost in CPS Headquarters.

    — A further nine will be gone by April 2009, another ten by April 2010, and a further eight by April 2011. The overall headcount reduction by 2011 is therefore 70, or almost 11% of the HQ workforce (excluding the casework directorate).

  20.  With respect to future cuts, the finance directorate has stated that it needs further information from the Attorney General's office on whether and to what extent the CPS will have to contribute to further efficiency savings in addition to those mentioned above, within the same timeframe (ie by 2011).

Effects upon Areas—resources and targets

  21.  We do not as yet have any accurate data on the overall headcount reduction in Areas that have occurred as a consequence of budget reductions and so we are unsure what impact this is having on service delivery. We fully expect a further deterioration in the timeliness of the preparation and service of case papers and responses to Judge's orders. We would recommend the committee seeks further information on this to determine what reductions there have been in each CPS Area and what impact this is having on the service the CPS provides.

  22.  PCS notes that financial delegation has been withdrawn from most staff in London, with other Areas expecting to follow suit. Authorisation now has to be sought for any casework expenditure such as the payment of ordinary witness expenses, (including hotel accommodation and travel), interpreter expenses and expert witness expenses. In effect, introducing a new level of bureaucracy that is not resourced and will have a significant impact upon already demoralised and overworked staff.

CPS staff attitudinal survey 2008

  23.  Despite the results of the survey being published and widely available for some months we have seen no clear plans by the CPS on how to take the issues forward. These are the worst results in the ten year history of the bi-annual survey.

  24.  We have attempted to gain meaningful equalities and demographic data from the raw data of the survey, but have so far failed.

  25.  Below are some of the CPS results of notable concern to us. We have demonstrated how far they fall below the government benchmark target (ie from attitudinal surveys across the civil service).

    — reaction to the amount of pressure placed on staff—26% below benchmark;

    — recommendation of CPS as a great place to work—17% below benchmark;

    — satisfaction on opportunities for personal development—15% below benchmark;

    — satisfaction with physical working conditions—13% below benchmark;

    — confidence to speak up and challenge decisions—13% below benchmark;

    — treatment by the organisation (fairness and respect)—13% below benchmark;

    — motivation by managers—12% below benchmark;

    — feeling valued—12% below benchmark;

    — sufficient staff to get the work done—10% below benchmark;

    — effective leadership by senior managers—8% below benchmark;

    — effective management of change—8% below benchmark;

    — fair pay—8% below benchmark; and

    — sense of personal accomplishment in the job—7% below benchmark.

Work related stress

  26.  A more detailed analysis of the results of our last work stress audit, using the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) management standards model, indicate that the root causes for the unprecedented high levels of work related stress within the organisation are caused by:

    — Demands: Conflicting demands, unachievable deadlines, over-intensive working and unrealistic time pressures.

    — Control: Lack of control over own work speed and style, insufficient variety of work and inflexible working practices and insufficient choice of duties.

    — Support: Insufficient encouragement from management, lack of supportive feedback and a lack of support through emotionally demanding work.

    — Relationships: Bullying at work prevalent and strained working relationships (internally and externally).

    — Role: Unclear expectations, unclear roles and responsibilities, unclear goals and objectives and a lack of understanding of how role fits into wider organisation.

    — Change: No opportunity to question managers on changes at work, lack of consultation and no clarity of how change will affect the job holder.

Advocacy

  27.  Additional pressure is also being placed on crown prosecutors and associate prosecutors through work rotas. Court deployments are often applied inflexibly and the effect is a long hours culture, as these staff have to find time to review and prepare files for court with little or no time spent in the office.

  28.  PCS believes that increased levels of court attendance should be matched with an increase in staffing numbers to ensure we give a better level of service to victims and witnesses.

Industrial relations

  29.  In general terms, the CPS group of PCS welcomes the positive steps taken in 2008 to secure better industrial relations. This included the development of the employee relations framework agreement, which set out guidance and best practice in how the respective parties engage, share information, consult and where appropriate negotiate changes to terms and conditions of service. However, Areas are often left to their own devices and different practices develop across the 42 Areas. We believe that a lack of central control has also let poor practices develop.

  30.  In addition, the development of the security in employment protocol agreement showed a positive commitment to staff about their ongoing employment and strengthened as far as possible the security of our jobs.

  31.  We hope that the positive way we have worked together to develop these agreements will form a firm basis for improved working relations on a local Area and workplace level.

CPS Groups and Group Operation Centres (GOCs)

  32.  Rather than bare the cost of placing a distinct and separate middle management tier between the 42 Area senior management teams of Chief Crown Prosecutors and Area Business Managers, management instead "upgraded" the roles in one identified lead Area within each Group.

  33.  In terms of governance this was perceived as a way of regaining some central control lost some time ago with minimal cost to the organisation (as the middle management tier would retain leadership of their own Areas). This was in addition to cutting costs for central service delivery (eg facilities management, procurement and health and safety).

Remit and effectiveness of the GOCs

  34.  As the GOCs become more established, issues have arisen over governance on local CPS Area HR management policies; such as flexible working hours, sickness absence reporting and even the management and interpretation of national HR policies.

  35.  The biggest concern to PCS in the GOC is that there is currently no recognised collective bargaining process (Whitley Council) in place to mirror and support the new Group structure. We are therefore left consulting and attempting to negotiate at Area level on policies and directives put in place at GOC level.

Is the CPS an employer of choice?

  36.  Of all staff, prosecutors and especially caseworkers in the frontline hold views that are generally the most negative about the organisation—in relation to resources, management, opportunities, fair and respectful treatment, change, pay and reward and stress. Only 26% of caseworkers would recommend the CPS as a great place to work.

Equality concerns

  37.  The CPS states that it is committed to working on diversity and equality issues in relation to the communities that it serves. The staff survey shows that just 32% feel it is safe to speak up and challenge the way things are done. We strongly believe this indicates there is much work to be done internally.

  38.  The last CPS equalities in employment report is dated 2005—2006, which in itself should be a cause for concern. Page 83 of the report reveals that of 40 equality complaints submitted, 23 were ongoing, eight were not upheld and just two were upheld (two were withdrawn and five were deemed not to disclose equality issues).

Is the CPS a world class service?

  39.  PCS believes in order for the CPS to become a world class service an urgent review of its funding is required. The present requirements to make efficiency savings will inevitably result in a deteriorating level of service, which in turn will impact negatively upon public confidence.

  40.  We believe it is a mistake to have a criminal justice system so heavily biased on the issue of policing and that there must be sufficient investment in staff in other justice agencies (CPS included). By way of illustration, Hackney borough (London) has 700 CID and Police Officers and 70 Police Community Support Officers to process over 10,000 arrested defendants, yet the CPS IPT unit was down to just three caseworkers, each with a caseload of over 100 Crown Court cases.

CONCLUSION

  41.  Our evidence demonstrates that the CPS urgently needs to review its funding in order to address many of the concerns we have regarding co-location, having enough staff to provide a proper service to victims and witnesses, reducing staff stress and dispensing justice effectively.

  42.  As we have outlined above many of our members are working in very stressed environments, however they feel if their concerns are addressed and adequate resources provided they would be working for an employer of choice. Our members are committed to working with CPS management to address these concerns so they can deliver an effective service to the public and make the CPS a world class service.

February 2009





 
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Prepared 6 August 2009