HMCPSI: Serious Youth Crime

HMCPSI inspection of serious youth crime

Inspectors from HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) have reviewed how the CPS handles serious youth crime. Inspectors set out three key objectives:

  • To assess whether CPS handling of serious youth casework is efficient and effective, and whether there is a high standard of legal decision-making in serious youth cases.
  • To determine whether CPS is following its youth policy in terms of decision-making and case-handling.
  • To assess whether policy and guidance in relation to youth prosecutions is supporting the effective prosecution of youth crime.

Inspectors found that there were far fewer children entering the youth justice system, but the cases that do reach the court are often complex, serious and sensitive in nature. Although most of the serious cases remain in the youth courts, the more serious and difficult cases go to the Crown Court. Inspectors recommended that CPS prosecutors dealing with young defendants need to be familiar with the relevant law, procedure, policy and guidance. They found that currently there were regional discrepancies between how well youth cases were dealt with which was affecting the quality of the casework.

The report highlights that where there were fully involved Area youth justice co-ordinators with clear defined roles, the quality of casework was much better. In areas with more youth courts, casework quality was also much better as the cases were being dealt with by specialists in the field.

The inspection also found that youth policy and guidance was applied fully in 38% of the cases inspected. Just over half the cases examined (56.1%), case strategy and analysis were rated as satisfactory, and disclosure obligations were only dealt with fully in 51.7% of cases.

Recommendations for the CPS includes:

  • The criteria for becoming an approved youth offender specialist needs to be reviewed especially in relation to making regular court appearances. This is to ensure that they are familiar with policies and procedures.
  • To ensure that specialist youth training is delivered to all those dealing with youth work, and that training, guidance and policy are always up-to-date.
  • Ensuring that the youth justice coordinator is qualified as a youth offender specialist
  • Data and quality assurance need to be provided by Areas to help drive improvement in youth casework.
  • All prosecutors dealing with youth cases need to ensure that they have refreshed their knowledge of policy and guidance
  • Prosecutors should have enough time to prepare youth cases for trial.
  • There needs to be a clear strategy for prioritizing youth work, to ensure that it is dealt with promptly.

To undertake the inspection inspectors looked at 20 files from each of the 14 CPS areas (280 in total) and used a set of 59 questions to assess the quality of the casework. Interviews were conducted at Area and national level, including with the Chief Crown Prosecutor who holds the national youth portfolio, the national lead training manager, police lead, and local Area youth justice coordinators.

The full report is available here.

Serious youth crime (820 kB)