Message from CPS Wessex Chief Crown Prosecutor Kate Brown on office closures

08/04/2013

The CPS has been looking for the last few years at how we can make our business more efficient, effective and reducing bureaucracy to provide an excellent service and deliver justice to the public it serves.

The Spending Review 2010 announced that over the years, the CPS and CPS Areas' budgets would decrease. This, as a consequence, obliged us to review our processes and our work to see where savings could be made.

As part of this move to efficiency, it was decided that from April 2011, the CPS would have larger Areas. This meant that, for us, CPS Dorset, Hampshire and Isle of Wight and Wiltshire would merge into one Area, CPS Wessex.

In the same spirit, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chief Executive launched, last summer, the Refocusing the CPS programme- A new Service for a New Time.

It has been clearly apparent across the organisation that we could not sustain small teams undertaking a selection of work for a geographical area with little support.

In Wessex, we have seen how under pressure our staff are, we know that it is not fair upon each member of staff and that it is not the most effective way of dealing with our business across Wessex.

CPS Wessex was one of the first CPS Areas to pilot digital working as we knew that working digitally with our criminal justice partners would be one of the ways to make substantive savings in future.

This new way of working is already a cultural change and our staff have shown commitment, dedication and resilience in embracing this very complex change.

Replacing paper files with electronic files is unfortunately not the only way to make savings. Our budget allocation for 2013/14 is £1 million less than last year. This reduction equates to a 24% cut in the last five years (over £4 million).

We have enough people across Wessex to deal with our caseload; the challenge is ensuring those teams are best supported to undertake work to a high quality.

CPS Wessex currently pays accommodation costs for 530 staff. We now employ 301 (Full Time Equivalent 270) across Wessex, many of whom perform court-based roles. Our current estate costs us £1.5 million per year. The Department recognises that we must, across the organisation, consolidate and find new ways of working. To that end, each Area was asked to submit plans for an estates strategy to deliver efficient business.

We announced on 22 March to our staff working in our Bournemouth, Basingstoke, Isle of Wight and Southampton offices our intention to close their office. This has been a very difficult decision to take, which is part of the whole restructure of the CPS nationally and the restructure of CPS Wessex. CPS Wessex is made of the counties of Dorset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Wiltshire. There won't be any compulsory redundancy, some of our staff have opted for a voluntary exit scheme, and some have taken other jobs in other Areas or other organisations.

There will be one Magistrates' court team and one Crown Court team for the whole CPS Wessex. Our Rape And Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) will be moved to Portsmouth. This means that we will operate with more streamlined, flexible teams across the service.

Our plan is to move to two offices across Wessex, one In Portsmouth and one in a central location in Wessex, for the moment Eastleigh. We will still have a presence in Chippenham until our lease expires in 2019.

We will continue to have a local presence in all three counties linked to the court centres. Our advocates and paralegal staff for the Magistrates' Court and Crown Court will deliver the work locally. 

However, one thing that will never change is that we will continue making decisions on whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prosecute an individual with an offence and whether it is in the public interest.

These decisions are not easy to make and can only be made by individuals passionate about their work.

It is my role as Chief Crown Prosecutor to ensure that our staff are motivated, engaged and work with effective processes, in an efficient manner, which result in delivering a high quality service to the public we serve.

Kate Brown, Chief Crown Prosecutor CPS Wessex.