CPS South West Area Assurance Inspection (Jun 16)

Date of publication
30 June 2016
Crown Prosecution Service
CPS Region
South West
Inspection type
CPS Areas and Headquarters Reports

Inspectors gave the Area an overall score of GOOD on governance and value for money, and an overall score of FAIR for casework quality and service delivery for users.

Criteria Score
Managing resources Good
Managing performance Fair
Effectiveness of joint working Fair
Compliance with disclosure requirements Fair
Casework reviews and decisions Fair
Case preparation and progression Fair
Communicating with victims Poor

Inspectors found mixed performance results. For example the percentage of cracked and ineffective trials due to the prosecution is much lower than the national average. Almost all casework outcomes are better than the national average, although performance is declining.

The Area has experienced a difficult period following office closures and the resulting loss of experienced staff, in particular administrative staff. This had a significant impact on morale. They also have to deal with the pressures brought about by new working practices, including Transforming Summary Justice and Better Case Management.

The Area has a high number of temporary managers and this is having an adverse impact on effectiveness and efficiency. It does not have an Equality, Diversity and Community Engagement Manager and its ability to engage with local community groups and the public is suffering as a result. The lack of a Communications Manager is also having a detrimental impact on delivery of effective communications to staff and externally.

The Area needs to do more to manage poor performance.

Levels of sick absence in the Area increased dramatically over a short period of time, and although now decreasing they remain much higher than the CPS national average.

The Area has effective control over its budget, a finding that reflects the care the Area takes to maintain it. Their overall spend per completed case in the 12 months to December 2015 is £499, which is significantly lower than the national figure of £602.

Some aspects of casework performance are good but more needs to be done to ensure all managers understand the data and how to use it to improve performance. There also needs to be a more robust approach to carrying out the required compliance checks. Although the Area has good working relationships with partners, not all joint meetings produce effective outcomes.

More needs to be done to ensure cases are reviewed effectively before the first hearing and that the necessary work to prepare for trial is carried out at the right time.

Compliance with orders made by the courts and the recording of these orders is poor.

The Area’s management of Custody Time Limits (CTLs) is a ground for concern; there were six breaches in the six months up to May 2015 and although the Area has taken measures to improve performance, further urgent action is required to prevent any more breaches.

The Area’s communication with victims is of poor quality and often late. More needs to be done to ensure that there are processes in place that enable the Victims Liaison Unit to carry out its tasks effectively.


CPS South West has offices at Bristol, Exeter and Truro, and is aligned with Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, and Gloucestershire police forces. It covers 17 magistrates’ courts and six Crown Court centres.

Inspectors examined 120 magistrates’ courts and Crown Court files finalised between September 2015 and March 2016. They spoke with staff and partner agencies, including those dealing with victims and witnesses. Fieldwork took place in April 2016. Court observations were undertaken to assess the effectiveness of case progression and victim and witness care at court. Checks were carried out on how the Area managed fees to Counsel, custody time limits and the Case Management System.

CPS South West Area Assurance Inspection Report (Jun 16) (299 kB)