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New DPP begins term with promise to victims

04/11/2013

The new head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders, marked her first week in the job by piloting dedicated teams to improve the way the prosecution explains its decision making to victims.

Alison Saunders started her five-year term as Director of Public Prosecutions with an early morning meeting with her senior prosecutors, the men and women responsible for almost 800,000 prosecutions across England and Wales every year. The Director briefed them on her priorities, her expectations for performance and announced that specialist teams would be established across England and Wales to provide victims of crime with a dedicated contact team.

To help develop these teams, the DPP will be visiting a Victim Support call centre to hear direct feedback from victims in the first few weeks in the job.

Alison Saunders said: "We must recognise that victims do not choose to be in the criminal justice system and it is a strange world for many. We need to do all we can with partners to make victims' experiences easier and better. I know that our performance and decision making is improving - but not all victims would agree, and I think that can often simply be down to the way we explain ourselves. Better communications with victims goes to the very core of what justice is meant to achieve. One bad experience as a result of confusing and unsympathetic correspondence from us can undermine someone's confidence in the whole system and we need the confidence of those it serves. Victims need empathy and respect, not jargon and judgment."

The DPP continued: "I have been a prosecutor for more than 25 years and I know the CPS from the bottom to the top. The CPS has come a long way; as an organisation we are more open and accountable than ever before, and victims of crime need to feel that empowerment.

"Last week's Victim Code underlines the common commitment to give victims a modern and thorough service. But there are some basic ways of communicating properly with victims that we don't always get right. There will be no more standard letters; each piece of correspondence will be considered and personal and we will have dedicated people on the end of the phone to answer victims' queries there and then wherever possible."

A pilot in South Yorkshire will trial this new service for victims through a dedicated Victim Liaison Unit with a specialist manager overseeing a group of trained staff committed to ensuring quality communication. Victim Liaison Units will be extended to other sites in the coming weeks and are being piloted in order to ensure they are developed in line with victim's needs and with the benefit of victim feedback.

Challenging the decisions made by the Crown Prosecution Service is now a fundamental right afforded to all victims. The Victims' Right to Review has formalised that right, creating an open, fair and accessible way for victims to ask for prosecutors to look at their decisions again where they feel we have got it wrong.

Alison Saunders said: "As the new Director of Public Prosecutions, I'm not just responsible for prosecuting those who break our laws. I'm also responsible for making sure that those most directly affected by that law breaking, the victims, understand what my prosecutors are doing and why they are doing it. Where we do this well, I can see the difference it makes. Where we don't, victims understandably feel let down - we must modernise this vital service. I believe the benefits will be reaped not just by individuals but by the whole criminal justice system."

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are four national casework divisions: Central Fraud, Welfare Rural & Health, Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. A 'virtual' 14th Area is CPS Direct which provides charging decisions to all police forces and other investigators across England and Wales - it operates twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  3. At 31 March 2013 we employed a workforce of approximately 6840 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2350 prosecutors and 4110 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:  www.cps.gov.uk.
  4. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.