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Independent Assessor of Complaints for the CPS - Terms of Reference

1. Introduction

1.1 The Independent Assessor of Complaints for the CPS (IAC) reviews complaints in respect of the quality of service provided by the CPS and its adherence to its published complaints procedure and the complaints aspects of the Victims' Code. Stephen Shaw CBE was appointed to this new position in May 2013 for a three year term (with the possibility of extension).

2. Role and Remit

2.1 The remit of the Independent Assessor of Complaints (IAC) for the CPS is to consider service complaints at Stage 3 of the CPS Feedback and Complaints procedure. Service complaints can be defined as 'any complaint relating to the service standards and conduct of CPS staff'. Examples of service complaints include being treated rudely or unfairly by staff members, failure to provide the correct information, or unnecessary delays in either the service provided or in responding to complaints.

2.2 The IAC cannot review complaints that are solely about prosecution decisions. Legal complaints are only considered at Stages 1 and 2 of the procedure. Victims who wish to exercise their right to request a review of decisions not to bring charges, discontinue proceeding, or offer no evidence in cases, should utilise the Victims' Right to Review scheme (VRR).

2.3 The IAC will not consider service complaints relating to live or on-going proceedings (whether criminal or civil) until those proceedings are completed. This includes cases that qualify under VRR but have not yet exhausted all stages of the scheme.

2.4 The IAC can consider the service elements of 'hybrid' complaints: i.e. those that embrace both legal and service aspects.

2.5 Complaints must be referred to the IAC for review following the completion of Stages 1 and 2 of the complaints procedure, if the complainant remains dissatisfied. Complaints that are linked to on-going civil proceedings must be deferred until the conclusion of all civil proceedings.

2.6 Complainants can also refer complaints to the IAC directly where the CPS has not adhered to its complaints procedure although Stages 1 and 2 may not have been completed. This could include circumstances where complaints handling at Stages 1 and 2 gives rise to further complaint.

2.7 2.6 Complaints must be submitted within one calendar month of the Stage 2 response. However, the IAC has discretion in relation to this time limit where there are exceptional factors.

2.8 The IAC also acts as the guardian of the CPS Feedback and Complaints policy, overseeing the process and supporting the CPS to develop best practice and improved service standards for victims and witnesses. In that capacity, he will review samples of cases that have not reached Stage 3 to assess the quality and timeliness of Stage 1 and 2 responses. The audit will involve a dip sample of all complaints to provide an update to the CPS Board, and to further develop internal guidance, protocols and training materials.

2.9 The Victims' Code outlines victims' entitlements to ensure that services recognise and treat victims in a respectful, sensitive and professional manner without discrimination of any kind. Victims are entitled to make a complaint if their entitlements under the Code have not been met.

2.10 The Attorney General may commission the IAC to undertake bespoke investigations on behalf of the Attorney General's Office or the CPS. The nature of these investigations may fall outside the usual IAC remit; in such cases specific terms of reference for the review will be drawn up.

3. Review Process and Time Standards

3.1 As an independent postholder with quasi-judicial functions, the IAC sets his own procedure. However, in general an IAC review will consist of a review of the papers at Stages 1 and 2 of the complaint procedure. The relevant CPS Area/Central Casework Division will submit and prepare the relevant paperwork and a background note for consideration by the IAC.

3.2 The IAC will consider the information provided and where appropriate request further reports and statements.

3.3 The IAC will develop a draft response within 30 working days of the matter being referred to him which will be sent to the relevant CPS Area to allow for fact-checking in advance of the final response and recommendations being concluded. The timescales will begin once the complaint has been accepted by the IAC.

3.4 The CPS will have a maximum of 10 working days to respond to the draft report.

3.5 A full response will be provided to the complainant within 40 working days. If it is not possible to complete the review and reply within that timeframe, the IAC will contact the complainant to explain why there is a delay and provide a date by which he hopes to provide a response.

3.6 The IAC will acknowledge receipt of complaints within five working days.

3.7 The IAC will normally conclude his review with a formal report. However, he will be at liberty to complete a review in whatever means he judges most appropriate.

3.8 The review process will be supported by CPS staff who will provide a back office function and advise the IAC on the eligibility of complaints under his terms of reference.

3.9 Final reports will be sent on behalf of the IAC to the complainant and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

4. Remedies and Compensation

4.1 The normal form of redress recommended by the IAC will be a formal apology on behalf of the CPS.

4.2 The IAC may also recommend changes to CPS policies and practices that could help prevent a recurrence of the circumstances giving rise to the complaint.

4.3 The IAC may not recommend disciplinary action against CPS staff but he may recommend that the case for disciplinary action is considered under the CPS's HR procedures.

4.4 The IAC can recommend that the CPS consider making a compensatory or modest consolatory payment where there is clear evidence of uninsured material loss or severe distress cause by maladministration or poor service by the CPS.

4.5 Recommendations will be made to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The IAC's recommendations are not binding, but if the CPS decides not to accept a recommendation it will explain its decision in writing to both the complainant and the IAC.

4.6 Victims have the opportunity to refer their complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), via an MP, following the IAC review where they remain of the view that the Service has failed to meet its obligations under the Victims' Code.

4.7 Complainants who are not victims of crime do not have a right of access to the PHSO; the IAC review is the final stage of the complaints process in these cases.

5. CPS Responsibilities

5.1 The CPS will provide:

  • In year data to the IAC to inform the complaints reporting process.
  • Open access to complaints and feedback systems and records.
  • Access to such information as the IAC requests for the purpose of conducting a review.
  • Executive support for the office of the IAC.

5.2 The CPS will ensure that the referral process for the IAC is clear and accessible for complainants and that the executive support arrangements are robust. Fact-checking of draft IAC reports will be undertaken in a timely manner no longer than the timetable in paragraph 3.4 above. Where the CPS is unable to meet that timetable it will inform the IAC immediately.

5.3 The CPS will formally acknowledge IAC reports and recommendations and provide confirmation by letter whether the recommendations have been accepted and implemented.

6. Reporting Arrangements

6.1 The IAC will report bi-annually to the Director for Public Prosecutions and the CPS Board. The CPS will publish the IAC's annual report on its website.

7. Contact Details

Stephen Shaw CBE
Independent Assessor of Complaints for the CPS
c/o Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge


Fax: 020 3357 0567

8. Review Period

8.1 The IAC terms of reference will be reviewed annually.

8.2 Supporting FAQ will be updated on a bi-annual basis.

Crown Prosecution Service
April 2015