Area Assurance Inspection of CPS Yorkshire and Humberside
This inspection was carried out to assess CPS Yorkshire and Humberside in terms of efficiency, resources, engagement with stakeholders and staff, and casework.
The Area was given an overall score of “good” for senior leadership and commitment to CPS values; “excellent” for use of resources; “fair” for quality of casework; and “good” for public confidence.
|The success of CPS people||Good|
|High quality casework||Fair|
Senior management demonstrated effective leadership, with Area managers upholding CPS values and being well respected by members of staff. Inspectors found that there was a concerted effort by senior managers to engage with staff at all levels and grades, which has had a positive impact on morale and is clearly reflected in the recent staff survey results – although there was still some room for improvement. For example, although 49% of staff said they felt that senior management promoted CPS values (an improvement from 34% in 2015), this was still below the CPS national average of 58%. Inspectors also found a limited amount of engagement between senior management and administrative staff in the Leeds office.
Senior managers had developed strong relationships with key stakeholders and criminal justice system partners. The report found that the Area had established a particularly good relationship with the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in Yorkshire and Humberside, with regular meetings involving the Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP).
The Area manages resources well, has excellent financial controls in place, and has consistently come within budget for a number of years.
Inspectors also found that through collaboration with different partners, performance has improved. For example, through partnership working with one police force there has been a marked improvement in domestic abuse conviction rates; feedback from stakeholders has resulted in improved letters to victims of crime.
However, there are still improvements to be made in certain aspects, such as ensuring all cases are reviewed properly within the required timescales and improving case progression. Yorkshire and Humberside did less well with regard to casework quality and case preparation in both the magistrates’ court and the Crown Court. There are also steps that need to be taken to improve the quality of police files. Inspectors looked at 75 magistrates’ courts files and found that only 22 out of the 69 relevant police files (31.9%) complied with the agreed National File Standard, but there was limited evidence of challenge from the CPS. The Area had only complied fully with initial disclosure in the magistrates’ courts in 23 out of 43 cases – just over 50%.
The main issues affecting magistrates’ courts performance were in relation to trial effectiveness (41.4% for the 12 months to September 2016, which is below the national average of 47.2% for the same period) and the increase in cracked or ineffective trials due to prosecution reasons (22.4% to September 2016, which is now slightly worse than the national average of 22.2% over the same period). Similarly, disclosure was an issue in the Crown Court, and inspectors also found that cases were not being effectively managed or processed. The CPS demonstrated limited engagement with the defence community with respect to concluding cases as soon as possible.
However, inspectors found that effective interaction with victims and witnesses was central to the Area’s work. Communications with victims under the various initiatives, such as letters issued via the Victim Communication and Liaison (VCL) scheme, were timely and of good standard. The Victim Liaison Unit (VLU) is made up of experienced staff, which means that there was a greater understanding of the process and priority of communications to victims. The Area also works closely with community groups, victims and witnesses, complainants and other stakeholders to ensure that feedback is used to improve service delivery.
The following points were identified to improve performance further:
- Greater senior management engagement with administrative staff.
- Maximising available resources in-house to cover the magistrates’ court and minimise agent spend.
- Further engagement with police to improve the quality of files.
- Embedding the Individual Quality Assessment process to improve casework quality.
- Greater consistency in magistrates’ courts cases to ensure disclosure audit trails are kept where necessary.
- Prosecutors should feed back poor quality disclosure documents to the police to raise standards.
- Improved compliance with court directions and case progression tasks to increase the effective trial rate.
- Crown Court cases need to be reviewed in accordance with Better Case Management and national Standard Operating Practices.
- Disclosure of unused material must improve.
- Robust case progression of Crown Court cases.
- Victim and witness issues arising during the trial process should be prioritised consistently throughout the Area.
CPS Yorkshire and Humberside has offices in Leeds, Sheffield and Hull and is aligned with North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and Humberside police forces. The Area covers 15 magistrates’ courts and six Crown Court centres. Inspectors examined 150 magistrates’ court and Crown Court files which were finalised between July and September 2016. Fieldwork took place in December 2016 and inspectors spoke to members of the judiciary, representatives of partner agencies and CPS staff. Court observations also took place during this period.