CPS Response to Area Inspection Programme, CPS Mersey Cheshire, Baseline Report September 2022
Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) have today issued a report following their Inspection of CPS Mersey Cheshire.
This report recognises the strengths of the Area particularly around our sound legal decision making and the value we add to our casework. This is testimony to the hard work and commitment of our staff, who provide a good service to delivery partners, victims and witnesses, and the communities of Merseyside and Cheshire.
It also acknowledges the challenges the Area has faced during the past two years. Training and development of our teams to complete our most complex work has been a priority, which has been achieved against a backdrop of increased caseloads and is recognised as a particular strength for the Area.
CPS Mersey Cheshire Chief Crown Prosecutor Jonathan Storer said:
“We welcome the publication of this report which highlights our commitment to providing a quality service to victims and witnesses and our wider communities, based on sound decision making and high-quality casework.
Throughout the pandemic, our staff worked tirelessly to ensure our usual high standards were maintained and this report reflects their hard work and dedication.
We acknowledge there are improvements to be made and are committed to addressing these over the next twelve months. We have previously identified areas for improvement and it is re-assuring that our findings accord with those of HMCPSI”
There are no specific recommendations in the report, however we have identified three main issues to address.
Issues to address
1. A clear casework analysis and strategy from the outset of the case.
Numerous issues identified in the report can be addressed through structured and considered casework analysis and strategy. This should include consideration of potential changes throughout the life of the case, appropriate use of special measures, clear instructions to advocates and challenging disclosure issues appropriately. The return of all daytime charging to Area will offer us an early opportunity to act on this and we have included elements in our training. More structured training will take place in the forthcoming months once our early actions have been reviewed.
2. Improve the timeliness of RASSO pre-charge decisions.
We are pleased with the positive assessment of the quality of our RASSO legal decision making but acknowledge that the timeliness of pre-charge decision making requires improvement. We have already put measures in place to address this and have seen some positive results and have reviewed our escalation process to ensure we are proactively progressing cases. We recognise that timely decision making is key to providing the best service to victims and witnesses, suspects and our CJS partners.
3. Improve our service to victims and witnesses, ensuring they are fully supported throughout the Prosecution process and our communications are of a high quality.
We have established a victim and witness committee that works alongside our victim panel to drive improvement. We will be collaborating with stakeholders to ensure we are identifying opportunities to improve our service.
The CPS recognises the importance of getting our communications with victims right. The quality of our communications is a key priority and we are conducting a three-phase programme of work in order to make improvements.
In the first phase we examined and completed actions which we could take in the shorter term to improve our communication. This included new template letters which help to set clear standards for our communication. The new templates became available to prosecutors in December 2021. We have also set up a new area leads network which provides a forum to identify and share local best practice and pilot new methods of victim communication.
In the second phase we conducted bespoke user needs research to better understand the needs and preferences of victims in their communications with the CPS and provide a solid evidence base for the next phase of our work. The research considered the methods of communication, the timing of communications and how we can best communicate the reasons for our prosecution decisions to victims. This research has been completed and was published on the CPS website on 27 June 2022.
We have begun phase 3 of our ambitious programme of work to transform our service to victims. This includes taking forward the recommendations of the research to improve the quality of communication we provide to all victims and enhance the service we provide to victims with the greatest needs. We have engaged with stakeholders on the back of the research and will continue to involve them as we design and pilot improved approaches.