Appointment of HM CPS Chief Inspector - Justice Committee Contents

2  Appointment of a new Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service


3.  HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate was established on a non-statutory basis on 1 April 1999 and on a statutory basis on 1 October 2000 with the coming into force of the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate Act 2000. It had its origins prior to this as an internal unit of the Crown Prosecution Service. The responsibilities of the Chief Inspector are set out in the Act in broad terms as follows:

"The Chief Inspector shall—

a)   inspect or arrange for the inspection of the operation of the Crown Prosecution Service,

b)  report to the Attorney General on any matter connected with the operation of the Service which the Attorney General refers to him, and

c)  submit an annual report to the Attorney General on the operation of the Service."

4.  The Attorney General's Office described the organisation as: "the independent Inspectorate for the Crown Prosecution Service, the principal prosecuting authority for criminal cases in England and Wales. Its purpose is to enhance the quality of justice through independent inspection and assessment of prosecution services, and in so doing, improve their effectiveness and efficiency."[4]

Appointment, tenure and terms

5.  The Chief Inspector is appointed by the Attorney General. The Attorney General wrote to us to say: "The candidate will be informed that they are the preferred candidate, that the post is subject to a pre appointment hearing and that the Attorney General will not make a formal appointment until she has had an opportunity to consider your Committee's report."

6.  The appointment is for a five year fixed term on a salary between £120,000 and £180,000 per annum (the available information noted that it was anticipated that the salary will be towards the lower/mid point of this range). The agreed salary would be fixed for the term with no increments. There was a notice period of 3 months for any reason (not just performance related). There was no pension offered with this appointment. The successful candidate would enjoy 30 days' annual leave plus public holidays and sickness absence arrangements in line with Civil Service policy. The terms and conditions for the post refer to 'annual appraisal' and we believe that this should be spelt out in advance as including a response to feedback from stakeholders and peer review, preferably undertaken by one or two individuals with current or recent experience of equivalent inspectorate roles.


7.  HM Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service is an independent statutory office-holder reporting to the Attorney General as the Minister responsible for superintendence of the Crown Prosecution Service. The Chief Inspector's role includes managing some 45 permanent staff, located in London and York, and an annual budget of £3.788 million.

8.  The principal elements of the role were described by the Attorney General's Office as including:

  • leading and developing an independent, robust, creative and innovative Inspectorate whose work enhances public confidence in prosecution services;
  • enabling the Inspectorate to respond to changes in the criminal justice landscape and help raise the overall standard of prosecutorial practice and prosecution service delivery;
  • leading the identification of strategic thematic areas for improvement and offer inspected organisations advice and support on key areas for development;
  • working with and engaging a wide range of key stakeholders across the wider criminal justice arena to improve the overall quality and standards of prosecution and delivery of increasingly effective and efficient prosecution services to the public;
  • increasing public awareness of prosecution services, and enhancing the brand and reputation of both the Inspectorate and the prosecution services; and
  • delivering geographical and joint thematic Inspections working with other key inspectorates to improve consistency of standards and the sharing of best practice.

The candidate

9.  The preferred candidate, Mr Michael Fuller, QPM, BA, MBA, HonLLD, is a career policeman having joined the Metropolitan Police Service as a cadet in 1975. He has served in a wide variety of uniformed and CID positions throughout London, with postings at New Scotland Yard including Special Branch, and a two-year secondment to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. He has been Chief Constable of Kent since 5 January 2004 (see Annex A for more details).

10.  Mr Fuller clearly has professional experience indicative of his suitability to be a candidate for the role of HM Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, including: familiarity with the criminal justice landscape; experience of the work of the Crown Prosecution Service from the perspective of a serving police officer and lead investigator; experience of both being inspected and the conduct of inspection; management of a variety of offices, functions and organisations; and training and qualification for the Bar.

The candidate's approach


11.  Mr Fuller recognised that the Inspectorate needs to be a fully independent operation, saying that this was "essential". He described independence as a prerequisite of the objective scrutiny that the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and Parliament requires of the inspection process. Furthermore, he suggested that it is firmly in the best interests of the Director of Public Prosecutions to have an "honest" external voice that can determine and declare when new initiatives are not working, or are not working as intended. We welcome this approach.[5]

12.  The independence of the inspection function, and its unequivocal perception as such, is crucial for the conduct of objective scrutiny, and for public confidence in the service. We note that "annual appraisal" appears amongst the terms and conditions for the appointment and we believe that the process of assessing the performance of the Inspectorate should include a review of feedback from stakeholders and periodic peer review, preferably by one or more individuals with current or recent experience of an equivalent inspectorate role.


13.  We raised three issues with Mr Fuller in respect of his past experience in order to explore whether it has any bearing on his new role, or perceptions of that role.

14.  First, we asked Mr Fuller whether he felt the historically close relationship between police and prosecution services could make his potential appointment as Crown Prosecution Service inspector appear rather incestuous. Mr Fuller replied: "I would reject that." He added: "Close working [between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service] has led to greater efficiency. The decision-making has always been independent and that has been clear on both sides".[6]

15.  Mr Fuller continued:

I think that the public would see me as somebody who would bring independence and objective scrutiny where it is needed and I think that is important. The public would be looking for quality assurance. I am somebody who has clearly got the professional knowledge and I think you need a certain degree of knowledge of the CPS and how they work and, more important, the rubbing points. I think I would be better placed having worked closely with them and seen those rubbing points firsthand to be able to make recommendations that are credible.[7]

16.  Mr Fuller also emphasised the importance of due process:

For me it is about delivering justice, so if there is not sufficient evidence to prosecute somebody it is important that they are not prosecuted and we do not waste resources. At the end of the day we seek to deliver justice. As a cop, when I first started I would have said it was 'getting people convicted' but you cannot do that at all costs, there needs to be due process. Nobody wants wrongful convictions, but we also do not want the guilty people to go free through want of efficiency or want of preparation. For me, it is about delivering justice and ensuring that those people and organisations within the system recognise the fact that they are interdependent and have got to work together to secure efficient delivery of justice.[8]

17.  Second, we asked Mr Fuller whether he felt that his experience of the court environment was sufficient for him to be confident about making decisions about the quality of the way in which the Crown Prosecution Service operated in court and the quality of the lawyers engaged in prosecution advocacy and the presentation of cases. Mr Fuller said that there were judgements that he would not necessarily make himself but would delegate to credible specialists who commanded the confidence of those they were inspecting. He drew an analogy with police investigation work where there were many areas where a similar approach was required and where specialists were called in to conduct particular assessments. He emphasised his experience of managing and running organisations with similar demands for multi-disciplinary activity.[9]

18.  Third, we asked Mr Fuller about his previous comments about the inspection process as it affected the police. In response, Mr Fuller referred to the 11 inspectorates which were involved in scrutinising various aspects of police performance. He acknowledged that "critical and close scrutiny" was "right" but said he had been frustrated by the lack of coordination on practical aspects that led to repetitious basic information gathering and presentation; by conflicting recommendations from different bodies; and by the fact that the cost implications of recommendations were often not estimated. Nevertheless, he identified increased accountability, the identification and sharing of best practice and the detection of under-performance as the key benefits of effective inspection.[10]


19.  Mr Fuller identified a tight public expenditure environment as the key challenge for the future. Mr Fuller pointed to a more risk-based approach—focusing on under-performers rather than examining every area—as one way of stretching scarce resources cost-effectively.[11] Mr Wooler, the current Chief Inspector, had indicated that this was the direction of travel of Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate but it depended on robust management information gathered by Crown Prosecution Service at the centre.[12] Mr Fuller also referred to his experience in Kent of increasing the efficiency of backroom operations to free up a larger proportion of resources for frontline and core work.[13]


20.  We considered whether there is an argument in principle against appointing a senior police officer as HM Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service; but we have also taken account of Mr Fuller's personal qualities and the undesirability of unduly restricting the field from which the Chief Inspector can be recruited. Our conclusion is that we endorse Mr Michael Fuller's suitability for appointment as HM Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service. We also endorse his preliminary view of the character and priorities of his role and that of the Inspectorate. We welcome his grasp of the need for independence, specialist expertise where necessary and for an understanding of the criminal justice system as a whole. We expect him to call upon all his experience—as a leader, manager and innovator as well as a police officer—in pursuing his new responsibilities.

21.  We look forward to a continuing dialogue on progress in the way in which the Inspectorate carries out monitoring, assessment and, where necessary, driving of improvements in Crown Prosecution Service performance. We drew the attention of Mr Fuller to this Committee's view that the Criminal Justice System needs to focus on reducing the extent and seriousness of re-offending, and the need for the Crown Prosecution Service to play its part in pursuing that goal.[14] We wish Mr Fuller success in this role.

4   Ev 22, para 1 Back

5   Q 76 Back

6   Q 65 Back

7   Q 66 Back

8   Q 54 Back

9   QQ 60-62 Back

10   Q 47 Back

11   Q 67 Back

12   QQ 10-13 Back

13   Q 75 Back

14   These issues were considered in our report, published on the day following Mr Fuller's appearance us: Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment, First Report from the Justice Committee, Session 2009-10, HC 94-I and II. Back

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Prepared 1 February 2010