HMCPSI: Area Assurance Programme Composite Report (Oct 19)

During 2015–16, HMCPSI reviewed its inspection methodology and developed a new way of working, which enabled us to provide a more comprehensive commentary on overall CPS performance while reducing the burden of inspection. This new inspection method produced 14 CPS Area Assurance Programme inspection reports. This report brings together the findings of the 14 Area reports. 

The findings across the 14 reports highlight that all CPS Areas demonstrate strong leadership, communication and staff engagement. The vast majority of CPS Areas are being effectively led and well managed. Inspectors found that there is good work undertaken with criminal justice partners at a strategic level. Most Areas also have effective staff engagement and demonstrate actions that are consistent with the CPS values. 

Having the right staff doing the right role is critical to ensuring that the Area can deliver value for money. Inspection reports highlight that recruitment is a particular problem in some Areas. Improved digital working has enabled staff in some Areas to work in teams that provide services remotely to other Areas. This has helped address some issues, but recruiting the right number of staff remains a challenge.  

All inspections found that the focus on financial control in Areas is effective. Budgetary control and governance processes are working well. The majority of Areas have a good grip on finance and controls. 

Whilst the AAP reports highlight good leadership, effective performance management and budget control, inspectors again highlighted that the core element of the CPS’s business – legal decision making and casework – needs to continue to improve. 

Overall, the CPS could do more to add value to, and gain a grip on, cases. A lack of grip on a case causes unnecessary work, with time being lost to address problems that should have been resolved much earlier in the process. Findings highlight that, in all but one Area, more needs to be done to improve the handling of disclosure in straightforward cases in the Crown Court. We acknowledge that, since starting this programme of inspection in 2016, the CPS has carries out significant work to improve disclosure. However, the findings in the later inspections in the AAP programme highlight that more work is still needed if the changes made are to have intended effect throughout police forces and CPS Areas. 

Many reports highlight that, in too many cases, in the period between first appearance and trial, the CPS appeared to do little to review the case or progress work that needed to be done. Too much was left to be done at a late stage, if it was done at all. We describe this in the reports as “lacking grip”.

CPS Areas lacking grip on casework can have a direct effect on how victims and witnesses experience the criminal justice system, which can ultimately affect public confidence in the system as a whole. It is vitally important to public confidence in the criminal justice system that only those cases that deserve consideration by the courts proceed to prosecution. 

Across England and Wales as a whole, we assessed that the CPS could do more to communicate with victims in a timely and effective manner. The CPS is generally effective at representing the interests of victims and witnesses within the court process, making timely and effective representations in court, but there are issues with the quality, accuracy, timeliness and empathy of the letters which are sent to victims and witnesses. Overall, we found that most Areas had good levels of community engagement and worked effectively to use feedback to improve local practices and processes.

 AAP combined report 14 Areas – Final (500 kB)