HMCPSI: The Effective Use of Agents in the Magistrates' Court

HMCPSI inspection for the effective use of agents in the magistrates’ court

Inspectors from HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) have reviewed the use of agents, in covering magistrates’ court sessions. The CPS use agents in just over a quarter of all the cases presented in the magistrate’s court.

Inspectors found that the use of agents as a flexible resource is a sensible and cost effective approach to resourcing. CPS Areas are given full autonomy on how to manage agents as the needs of different areas vary which is currently working effectively. Inspectors found that Areas mainly used agents to cover trial advocacy, as they do not have access to CPS casework systems.

However Inspectors also found that the training of agents varied between Areas and the agent’s quality was very rarely assessed. This in itself could be problematic, as in some Areas the only representative from the CPS that the court would see would be agents. Inspectors highlighted the fact that this was due to resource and time constraints as Areas did not have the time to assess the suitability of agents.

The key recommendations made by Inspectors included:

  • CPS should provide key tools needed to manage agents effectively
  • Guidance should be produced on processes for the introduction of new agents, including the possibility of a national agent register
  • All agents need to be supplied with contact details to ensure that they received effective and efficient case support
  • CPS should ensure the right quality of agents is being selected by using individual quality assessments

Inspectors also identified key issues to address which included:

  • CPS Areas should promote the use of the External Prosecution College to encourage the greater use of the college
  • All agents should have suitable guidance or training on digital working
  • CPS should consider the full breadth of value for money of using agents.

Inspectors examined 90 magistrates’ court files from June 2019 to September 2019. This covered 9 CPS Areas: Cymru Wales, London North, Merseyside and Cheshire, North West, South East, Thames and Chiltern, Wessex, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside.

The full report is available here. The Effective Use of Agents in the Magistrates’ Court (1 MB)