CPS Response to HMCPSI Inspection on the Handling of Complaints, 23 August 2023
His Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) have today issued a report following their inspection on the Handling of Complaints.
This report provides clear evidence that progress has been made since the last inspection on this issue and we are pleased that this has been recognised. HMCPSI has identified good practices and strengths (particularly in relation to putting things right/acknowledging mistakes, providing information on escalation, and appropriate empathy) and has made some positive findings on timeliness of responses. However, despite these elements and an overall improvement in the overall quality of our handling of complaints, the report has identified there is still much to do.
We welcome the findings and accept the recommendations. We will use these to continue to make improvements to both the quality and timeliness of our handling of complaints. We note that there are some aspects of our guidance, training, and use of data that could be improved to help us achieve this. We will give thorough consideration to the best way of implementing the recommendations.
Inspectorate's recommendations / Issues to address
There are five recommendations/issues for the CPS to address. The CPS provides its responses below and will work to deliver these recommendations:
1. By December 2023 the Crown Prosecution Service to have clarified the time limit for complainants to escalate their complaints to stage two of the process and to ensure this information is provided consistently in all letters in response to stage one complaints.
CPS Response: We acknowledge that there is a lack of clarity on timescales to escalate complaints in the guidance. The guidance will be updated to ensure clarity that escalation of a complaint to stage two must be within one month of the reply, and this consistent approach will be reflected in correspondence to complainants.
2. By March 2024, the Crown Prosecution Service to develop and deliver training to ensure that all (appropriate) staff are using consistently and complying with the requirement of the Contact application maximising the use of the application's functionality.
CPS Response: As well as progressing a project to identify and deliver improvements to the Contact application, we acknowledge that more can be done to ensure better understanding and use of existing application functionality. Refresher training will be rolled out to appropriate staff.
3. By September 2023, the Crown Prosecution Service to include timeliness data from the Contact application in the internal CPS databank and that this data features in Area performance reporting at Area and Divisional accountability meetings.
CPS Response: We agree that raising the profile of complaints timeliness data through inclusion in wider performance metrics will improve access, allow comparison, and encourage the sharing of best practice. However, this will not include data on ‘triage’ timeliness, as we believe a more useful metric for a complainant is the acknowledgment within three days.
4. By December 2024, the Crown Prosecution Service will have improved the quality of complaint response letters showing a substantial improvement in the number of letters rated as adequate.
CPS Response: We note the improvements made since the last inspection relating to complaints, but the inspection still found a significant number of complaints letters (49%) were not adequate and that timeliness could still be improved in some cases. We will consider the findings on quality and timeliness and develop a plan for further improvements.
5. By January 2024, the Crown Prosecution Service to clarify the role and expectations of complaints coordinators in the quality assurance process for complaint letters.
CPS Response: We acknowledge the issue identified regarding the skills and role of the complaints coordinators. The guidance will be updated to provide clarity on this issue and we will identify whether any further support or training is required to support this.