CPS praised for innovative response to coronavirus pandemic
The CPS has been praised for its response to the coronavirus pandemic in a report published today.
Her Majesty’s CPS Inspectorate (HMCPSI) commends the organisation’s digital capability and strategic planning, noting how the pandemic has “acted as a catalyst for innovation, leading to significant beneficial changes”.
Almost overnight in mid-March, most of the CPS’s 6,000-strong workforce decamped from offices throughout the country to home working - compared to just a few hundred staff previously.
However, the service’s strategic foresight in upgrading its digital capabilities meant all staff including prosecutors could continue their essential work with minimal disruption. This included widespread rapid rollout of video technology and conferencing platforms, as well as training for lawyers in the new Cloud Video Platform (CVP) software introduced by HMCTS.
The service has been also commended for its adoption of measures to maintain support for victims and witnesses. For example, prosecutors have set up remote links for bereaved families so they can hear sentences being passed and be a part of this significant stage in the criminal justice process without putting themselves at risk.
HMCPSI says relationships with the police have been effective and constructive, which is reflected in the significant increase in the more secure and efficient digital sharing of multimedia from forces.
Mark Gray, Director of Operations, Digital & Commercial at the CPS, said: “The speed with which our working environment changed presented an enormous challenge and I am immensely proud of how our staff have responded. The report which has been published today praises our immediate and effective response to the pandemic, which shows how committed and resilient the CPS workforce is.
“This crisis has shown the CPS is flexible and can prosecute virtually wherever it is appropriate to do so, helping all parties to remain safe and continuing our vital work in upholding justice. I genuinely believe the changes we have made will bring long lasting benefits.”
Embracing video court cases
CPS Cymru-Wales prosecutor Justin Espie conducted a remand court in Cardiff from his home, in one of the first hearings carried out entirely using video conferencing software in April. He said: “This shows CPS as a truly national service, capable of dealing with local or national crisis scenarios by having staff, literally anywhere in the country, trained to prosecute in any courtroom in the country by CVP.”
Ross Leek and Kiri Abadir in CPS Thames and Chiltern have been commended for their work in training courts in the region to use the new Cloud Video Platform. In addition to training lawyers, they have helped the courts to work with local prisons to ensure custody cases can be conducted.
The bereaved family of Alexander Knight were able to attend the sentencing hearing of his killer using video conferencing thanks to the efforts of West Midlands prosecutor Adrian Jones. This gave them the resolution of seeing justice done without putting themselves at risk of COVID-19.