DPP responds to Louise Casey report with enhanced service to bereaved families

06/07/2011

The Crown Prosecution Service is extending its service for bereaved families at court, announced the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer QC, today (Wednesday). He also welcomed the Victims’ Commissioner’s report: Review into the Needs of Families Bereaved by Homicide.

Mr Starmer said: 'I wholeheartedly agree with the principle that bereaved families should not experience 'avoidable intimidation, humiliation or distress' in the court process. If that principle is to be recognised, the CPS must play its part.

'I already require prosecutors to treat victims and witnesses respectfully and to ask the court to stop inappropriate questioning of prosecution witnesses. But I now want the CPS to go further and enhance the service offered to bereaved families.

'This is not about changing the legal system, but about making the adversarial experience more bearable for families dealing with grief and trauma. While the CPS already delivers a number of the recommendations in today's report, we have been working closely with Ms Casey and are now improving the service we offer.

'I recognise that a timely meeting with an understanding lawyer cannot remove grief. But explaining what will happen in court can often reduce the sometimes intimidating court room atmosphere of an adversarial system.'

The CPS is already committed to keeping victims and witnesses informed of the progress of their case in all cases and supporting them through the court process. For bereaved families the CPS also offers face-to-face meetings at any stage of the process, but specifically:

  1. Following a CPS decision not to charge
  2. Following a charge in cases heading for the Crown Court
  3. If charges are dropped or substantially changed
  4. Following conviction 

We will now be enhancing the scheme to also offer the following additional meetings:

  1. Following a charge in cases likely to be heard in the magistrates' court
  2. Following acquittal
  3. Following reconsideration of a case after acquittal
  4. Following leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal being granted

The CPS also recognises why it is important for a bereaved family to meet the prosecuting advocate who will actually be presenting the case in court, and in future there will be a meeting arranged with the advocate shortly before the appropriate hearing.

Mr Starmer said: 'The significance of Louise Casey's report is that it exposes flaws in the system and proposes concrete recommendations. These recommendations need to be taken seriously and call for a response.

'The CPS, along with others involved in criminal justice, has taken significant steps to address the needs of victims and witnesses in recent years, and genuine progress has been made. But it is clear that more needs to be done. That is why I am committing the CPS to contributing to the Ministry of Justice review of the treatment of victims and I am also committing the CPS to ongoing positive dialogue with Louise Casey. I am determined that we will play our part.'