New prosecutors charge cases from home in their first weeks after joining CPS
More than 100 lawyers have been offered roles at the Crown Prosecution Service since March after digital technology was deployed to overcome challenges posed by the COVID-19 lockdown.
New starters have already begun to offer online charging advice to police forces, after completing a virtual induction process, and embedding with managers and teams through video conferences.
The CPS was recently named the most attractive employer for 2020 in the field of law in a Universum survey of 40,528 students across 168 universities.
Following an £85million funding increase last year, the CPS embarked on a campaign to hire 390 new prosecutors, as well as 100 paralegals and administrators, by the end of June.
To prevent this vital staffing boost being slowed by coronavirus, HR teams made sure everyone shortlisted was offered the opportunity to be interviewed remotely.
Despite the technological challenges, 148 candidates were video-interviewed since the lockdown - with 70 successful so far issued with formal offers.
Since the launch of the National Lawyer Campaign, the CPS has conducted 700 interviews leading to 358 job offers along with the appointment of 35 Legal Managers across the organisation.
In addition to this, 43 legal trainees have been recruited and started (remotely) in March 2020.
There are currently over 500 interviews taking place for the recruitment of 100 paralegal officer and paralegal assistant positions.
The CPS has also just closed a national campaign to recruit apprentices with over 1,600 applications at sift stage.
Gail Moore, a member of the CPS Strategic Resourcing team who deals with onboarding, said: “I’ve video-called almost everybody we’ve recruited and reassured them we can get them in as soon as possible. We’ve done inductions over video. We’ve had terrific feedback. It is all going well.
“Everybody gets a laptop on day one. As of this morning we have 93 people going through security checks. We’ve already issued six contracts of the people we interviewed from April which is not bad going given the notice periods, solicitor’s certificates and security checks. They’re shocked at how soon they are able to come and how they can do things remotely.”
Mark Summerfield, HR Director said: “Recruiting and getting so many people started during lockdown has been a massive achievement, especially in removing barriers to the process and helping people have the best experience they can in joining the CPS at this time.
"We are delighted at the way our teams have worked phenomenally hard in exceptional circumstances to complete interviews, speed security checks, ship equipment and do everything else to make sure our new starters had a warm welcome and were ready to get going despite beginning work on day one working from home.”
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said: “I am extremely proud of the way our prosecutors and teams have adapted to working remotely and online during this unprecedented period.
“New starters to the CPS have come straight into this digital world and been able to get on with making fair and impartial charging decisions on all types of criminal cases.”
Another round of recruitment was launched last week with further video interviews expected to take place over the summer. The CPS is also organising 520 interviews across the Paralegal Assistant and Officer Campaign.
The CPS prosecutes around 495,000 cases a year including terrorism, fraud, organised crime, drugs offences, violent crimes, and sexual offences.
Recent high profile prosecutions including the conviction after England’s largest ever murder trial for the Manchester Arena bombing, the UK’s largest ever modern slavery case, the first ever conviction for female genital mutilation, and Reynhard Sinaga, the country’s most prolific rapist.
Another round of recruitment was launched last week.
Harminder Cheema, 47, recently joined CPS London North as a Senior Crown Prosecutor.
She said: “I had anxiety over if I could start [during lockdown]. It was an enormous comfort to me when my new manager got in touch over video with me and introduced me to the CPS - being able to see your manager face to face is so important.
My laptop arrived a week before I was due to start and, with clear instructions of what to do on the first day, I sat in my home office at 8.30am and was immediately able to start training. The CPS has adapted to the changes quickly and effectively.
“So far I’ve completed pre-charging advices, dealt with cases allocated to me, I’ve had regular meetings with my manager, my mentor and have consulted other members of the team if I’ve had queries.
“As a new starter being at home and not having met people has been an odd thing. I haven’t felt isolated at all - just very welcome and supported. The training has been well-structured and constructive.
“The CPS offers so many opportunities. I don’t think there has been anything more that the CPS could have done for me in these unprecedented times.”
Karen Wright, 50, who now works in the Magistrates' Court Unit in CPS West Midlands, said: “Being at home on our own was quite difficult at first but the manager I have has been amazing. If I’ve got a problem I get online, speak to someone, and get the help I need.
“The training and induction is phenomenal. It’s done over video but the amount of training and support has been amazing.
"I started charging advices and reviews of full files this week. I’ve been dealing with domestic abuse cases, quite challenging. These ones have been just before the lockdown.
“I always loved dealing with youths so I’d like to specialise in youth courts. It’s challenging but satisfying when you see them going through the system and turning their lives around.”