Findings of the Area Assurance Programme in 2016-17 and 2017-18 (Jul 18)

Date of publication
13 July 2018
Crown Prosecution Service
Inspection type
CPS Areas and Headquarters Reports

HMCPSI’s composite report of the findings from the Area Assurance Programme inspections in 2016-18.

Over the past two years, HMCPSI has conducted Area Assurance Programme (AAP) inspections of CPS Areas across England and Wales. This new approach was developed to give a more comprehensive commentary on overall CPS performance, while reducing the burden of inspection on CPS Areas. The aim is to assess the outcomes and evaluate the governance, value for money, casework quality and service delivery that currently exists. The composite report looks at the national picture, although this does not include London North and London South, which are currently being inspected.

Inspectors found that the majority of Areas are led and managed effectively. Staff engagement has been positive and CPS values were being actively promoted by senior managers. Relationships with stakeholders have also been positive, with good examples of joint working with other criminal justice agencies.

Although there were effective budgetary control and governance processes found in most Areas, inspectors identified some issues with the distribution of resources, as well as the recruitment and retention of staff in some of the regions.

In most Areas inspectors identified that there was a clear need to improve case progression in both the magistrates’ courts and Crown Court. Inspectors found that, between first appearance and trial, in many cases the CPS did not manage progress effectively and too much work was left until a late stage. Inspectors were concerned a ‘last minute’ approach was taken in too many cases and that the CPS could do more to prevent delays by addressing problems which may have arisen earlier in the process.

Although the CPS was generally good at representing the interests of victims and witnesses during the court process, the inspection found Areas were not doing enough to communicate with victims and witnesses in a timely and effective manner. Of the 1,290 files examined for AAP, 209 should have included a victim letter. Findings showed that one in ten of these letters was late and only four in ten were assessed as fully meeting expected standards. Criticisms included that the letters contained incorrect information, used complex legal phrases and did not always read as empathetic. Although there were good relationships between the witness care units and CPS Areas, delays were identified in dealing with queries. Inspectors found that there was generally good engagement with the local community in most Areas, helping to increase public confidence.

There was a mixed picture when it came to efficiency and value for money. Areas shown as delivering good value for money were those that improved outcomes while working within budget. Inspectors found that, generally, Areas were focussed on continuous improvement of performance, although some were failing to use performance information to drive improvement.

The composite report combines the findings of ten AAP reports conducted by HMCPSI between 2016-18.

Findings from the Area Assurance Programme 2016-18 (Jul 18) (176 kB)