CPS Response to HMCPSI Inspection Report on the Service from the CPS to Victims of Domestic Abuse - 30 March 2023
His Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) have today issued a report following their inspection of the service from the CPS to victims of domestic abuse. This is a thematic inspection of the handling by the Crown Prosecution Service of domestic abuse cases in the magistrates’ courts.
Domestic Abuse is a traumatic and pervasive crime impacting victims and their families in complex and long-lasting ways. We welcome HMCPSI’s recognition that the CPS is a driving force in work across the criminal justice system to improve domestic abuse prosecutions and the service provided to victims.
HMCPSI have recognised the passion and commitment of our staff locally and nationally to achieve the best possible outcome for victims. Overwhelmingly, our prosecutors are making decisions in accordance with our Code. They are selecting charges that are appropriate and proportionate, reflecting the criminality involved and providing the court with adequate sentencing powers. They also highlighted the way in which we are making appropriate applications for restraining orders to provide victims with additional protection even when the defendant has been acquitted.
However, we know that there is more to do, and we are resolute in our commitment to address the recommendations and areas for improvement that HMCPSI have highlighted.
We also recognise that to achieve enduring improvement we must continue to work together with our criminal justice partners. The impact and outcomes from the Rape Joint National Action Plan (JNAP) between the CPS and the Police clearly demonstrate what can be achieved through joint working and having a shared focus on what (and why) action is needed to achieve outcomes. We, together with the NPCC leads are working collaboratively with stakeholders to develop a domestic abuse Joint Justice Plan that will improve the investigation, prosecution, and collective handling of domestic abuse to better secure justice for victims.
Inspectorates’ Recommendations / Issues to address
There are 6 recommendations. The CPS welcomes this report and the recommendations. We will use its finding and will continue to work with CJS partners to deliver these recommendations:
1. By March 2024 the CPS to introduce a system for domestic abuse cases that identifies any summary time limit applicable on receipt from the police at pre-charge and ensures that the case is progressed effectively and efficiently within that summary time limit.
2. By July 2023 the CPS to implement a process where, on a domestic abuse case where the summary time limit is due to expire within eight weeks, all communications with the police, including any pre-charge advice or decisions are clearly marked with the relevant summary time limit.
We fully accept the recommendations. We will work with the police to develop a process to ensure that where cases submitted by the police are close to a summary time limit that these can be clearly identified and progressed effectively to receive timely charging decisions.
3. By December 2023, the CPS to have communicated the need for prosecutors to review the risk assessment in all domestic abuse cases before completing the pre-charge decision (unless there are specific factors in the case such that the decision to charge cannot be delayed) and that where the risk assessment has been omitted in the file provided, or is referenced simply by level (standard, medium or high), the full risk assessment is requested. This approach to be embedded by March 2024.
We recognise that risk assessments can provide a rich source of potential evidence and enhance decision making including in an Evidence Led Prosecution. We will reinforce the principles set out in the Director’s Guidance Assessment and our legal guidance through training and focused communication to ensure prosecutors understand why the risk assessments are required and how they can effectively use this information.
4. By December 2023, the CPS to embed a process to ensure that in all magistrates’ court domestic abuse cases involving a Newton hearing or trial, all up-to-date relevant information about victims, including information relevant to ancillary orders, is requested in a timely manner for the sentence hearing.
We accept this recommendation and working with our partners across the criminal justice system we will develop a process to request up to date information for the sentencing court.
5. By December 2023 the CPS to develop a consistent approach to trauma training across violence against women and girls (VAWG) casework that reflects engagement with specialist VAWG organisations which focuses on how understanding trauma can improve casework and the service to victims of domestic abuse.
We accept this recommendation. We recognise the importance of our prosecutors understanding the impact traumatic experiences can have on victims. Drawing from the success of our RASSO trauma informed training we will adapt/develop training that further embeds these principles across all VAWG crimes.
6. From July 2023, the CPS to ensure that a minimum of one IQA per year is conducted on a domestic abuse case for prosecutors dealing with magistrates’ court domestic abuse cases.
We accept this recommendation and will mandate this within our Individual Quality Assurance process, which will be driven forward by local performance management arrangements.