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

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 100-119)



  Q100  Mr Tyrie: I am sorry to interrupt, but you just said a moment ago there is no evidence that they are saving money.

  Peter Lodder: No, because I do not think there has been a proper analysis of how much it is costing to pursue this course. Can I make what may appear to be a slightly superficial observation? When you employ someone in-house you have a number of structural costs, of which I am sure you are aware—the building, the secretarial support, whatever it is, sick pay, holiday pay, pensions, et cetera, et cetera—and you also have, once you have recruited someone, the liability to continue employing them; whereas if you come to the independent Bar you can pick them up and drop them as you wish.

  Q101  Mr Tyrie: Had you not better set to work doing that number crunching on behalf of your members ASAP if you want to make the point that there maybe hidden costs which are not embedded?

  Peter Lodder: It is a one-sided exercise, is it not? We need the data. We do not know how much.

  Q102  Mr Tyrie: Had you not better write down the data you need, send it to us and we will do our best to have it made available?

  Peter Lodder: We would be very happy to do that.[1]

  Q103 Mr Tyrie: That would be a first step. I think a second step that might be helpful is trying to establish, since you agree that there is, in principle, some benefit to in-house advocacy, telling us where the optimal point is. You have argued that it is not zero and you are presumably going to argue that it is not 100, so it must be somewhere between nought and 100% and there must be some explanation for a view that lies somewhere between those, and I would be grateful to see that.

  Peter Lodder: I would be very happy to assist you with that. I do not think one can fix it precisely. Interestingly, certainly the last Director was most reluctant to commit himself.

  Q104  Chairman: We are not asking the Director, we are asking you.

  Peter Lodder: I understand that.

  Q105  Mr Tyrie: Good; we have got that far. That leaves one last question, it seems to me, from what I have heard. At one point you seemed to set aside these arguments, or at least deflect them a little, by saying in any case it is all happening too fast.

  Peter Lodder: Yes.

  Q106  Mr Tyrie: That is correct?

  Peter Lodder: Yes.

  Q107  Mr Tyrie: When you have established for us what this equilibrium point might be, do you have a view about what speed it could take place at which would be sensible or optimal?

  Peter Lodder: Can I take that point, with your last point, and say that what we are dealing with here is the concept of justice, and the concept of justice does not easily fall into an economic assessment because justice is a general thing, a general concept, but in simple terms the speed at which what is happening at the moment is too rapid because, for example—let me come back to what Christine was saying about her members—we have a situation where, because people are being taken out of the office and put into court as often as is possible, those who are left in the office are under greater stress because there are not enough of them. Under stress they then do not do what they might do to get the files up to the requisite standard, the stress comes back through the system because, for example, it goes to court, the judge throws it out because the file has not been properly prepared and it comes back down through the system.

  Q108  Chairman: These are assertions. Is there evidence to back this up?

  Peter Lodder: I cannot give you a specific case where a judge has, for example, thrown this out in terms of naming it, but I am aware of it. I am aware of it from what judges have said as to their experience.

  Q109  Mr Tyrie: Sir Ken Macdonald has said that when allegations of poor quality CPS advocacy have been looked at in more detail they have been found to be the same cases that are being reported several times.

  Peter Lodder: I cannot comment on which ones he has looked at or someone on his behalf has looked at, but I can tell you, in my direct experience, of cases in the north of the country in recent times. For example, a rape file came through to a court and the judge discovered that there was no statement from the complainant in it.

  Q110  Chairman: I think what we would need to be convinced by this line of argument, and I do not expect you to do it just now, is to be directed towards some measurable evidence that the situation in this respect is worse than it was before the present level of in-house advocacy.

  Peter Lodder: I understand that. May I say, there is a difficulty for us as a profession providing this material, which is that it stems from those who act on the part of the CPS and there is an obvious reluctance to indicate these issues because of livelihood.

  Q111  Mr Tyrie: Well you had better tell us what we need to ask and we will get on with it.

  Peter Lodder: May I invite you to consider this? How many judges have you got coming before you to explain their experience? They are in a position to tell you of their direct experience without any fear concerning their either being partisan or indeed their income.

  Chairman: We have another area that we need to move to and I am going to call on Dr Whitehead.

  Q112  Dr Whitehead: This question is particularly for Christine Haswell. In the PSC evidence you raised the issue of the question of the relative roles of the CPS and other agencies in criminal justice system and the extent to which there might be either tension or confusion between those roles. You mention, for example, the possible confusion about police and CPS roles within witness care units and also the perception of CPS independence, where they are working in single work spaces together, and whether the claimed efficiency saving might, on the other hand, threaten CPS independence. Do you think there is a challenge facing the CPS in terms of its perceived or actual independence in working with other organisations across the criminal justice system?

  Christine Haswell: Generally, our members in the CPS do work well with the other parts of the criminal justice system, but there is a big issue around co-location projects. The Integrated Prosecutor Team Project in London is one, and one part of that is to do with accommodation but also the size of teams. In London they have had moved to small teams, such as the ones that have been moved into police stations, and have found that that had not worked and they have moved back to a bigger office environment, for economies of scale, partly, and other reasons. We have concerns. Bullying is reported to us by our members as a bit of a problem in the service, and if people are working alongside other parts of the justice system, people who are doing similar jobs or with different terms and conditions, this is causing, particularly in the police stations, tensions and there is a potential there for bullying or problems in the workplace. I am not saying this has necessarily happened, but it has the potential to cause problems over independence of the prosecution.

  Q113  Dr Whitehead: Do you mean by bullying, for example, "You must prosecute these people we have detected", even if you are not absolutely certain this is the best way to proceed?

  Christine Haswell: I am not saying that has actually happened, but there could be the potential there for that if you have got very small teams of CPS located in a much bigger environment dominated by other justice professionals, yes. There is that potential.

  Q114  Dr Whitehead: So do you think that the whole question of co-location under those circumstances is perhaps a bad practice to start with, or do you think there are ways in which that experience and the effectiveness of the CPS could be improved whilst perhaps working in co-located arrangements?

  Christine Haswell: We have a policy from the members on the ground that this is not a popular situation, and although we have been involved in negotiating when these moves have taken place—we have talked to Health and Safety about accommodation and things like that—it is not popular.

  Q115  Chairman: Are you saying that co-location is not popular?

  Christine Haswell: No, it is not popular. Our members tell us that they would prefer to work in a Crown Prosecution Service with other Crown Prosecution Service and to keep that physical distance as well as, if you like, a sort of structural distance.

  Q116  Mr Heath: Are you saying that CPS staff may be having direct professional contact with people who are outside the CPS? I am not talking about an advocate discussing a case with a police officer, or whatever, but are you saying that a police officer might come into the office and say, "I do not like the way you are putting that file together. Do this; do that"? That seems to be very unprofessional conduct.

  Christine Haswell: It does, yes. We are concerned that there is the potential for that sort of thing to happen more if you are talking about a very, very small CPS team in a much bigger environment like that. People feel, as they report to us, happier in a Crown Prosecution Service environment. As well as the cultural differences, there are different terms and conditions. In some of the roles in witness care, for example, the job description is almost the same and yet you have got these people on different terms and conditions, and, of course, in things like witness care and in the court you have actually got the third sector, the voluntary sector, in as well. You have got the three parts of people all doing ostensibly the same thing in a court, which is a bit—

  Chairman: We are waiting to hear from what voluntary sector, so we are going to bring this session to a close.

  Q117  Mr Heath: I am sorry to interrupt. I had not realised that there was any prospect of CPS staff not being entirely responsible to their line managers.

  Christine Haswell: They are; I am just saying that there is this potential there. I am not saying it has happened, but there is a concern that it could.

  Q118  Mr Heath: I understand that.

  Christine Haswell: I do not want to cast a slur on the professionalism of—

  Q119  Dr Whitehead: You have mentioned in your evidence that the potential may arise from the fact that there are different targets for the police and the CPS. The target for the police is around detection rates, and what happens afterwards, you might say, is additional to that target being achieved; whereas the CPS has a target to reduce attrition rates by making sure that only evidentially strong cases are prosecuted. I think the essence of the question is, therefore, is that something which is a structural problem for the CPS and the police co-locating, or is it something that protocols and good working practices ensure could be overcome?

  Christine Haswell: Good working practices are something that we get. The thing with the CPS, I have found, is the union official has a lot of good policies and good working practices, in theory, but sometimes the actual application varies tremendously. One of the things that does hit me about the service is that it is not necessarily always one service: because in the 42 areas there does seem to be very different management styles in the application of all sorts of policies, and sometimes you can get something happening in one area although ostensibly it is covered by the same policy because of the general culture of practices that have grown up in offices and things are not always---. Sometimes it is like you are hearing about two different organisations because some roles have grown, in some cases the use of different case workers, or it would be done by certain caseworkers, might be done by slightly different grades where there is an overlap in job descriptions and so forth. It has got a good protocol, if you like. It would be terrific if it was always going to be followed in the same way across the service in a consistent fashion.

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