Victims of crime failed by Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) complaints handling

A report by HMCPSI has found that half of the written responses from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to complainants, including victims of crime, are inadequate.

Letters from the CPS responding to complainants about the prosecution body, including responses sent to victims of crime, contained errors despite two levels of quality assurance checks following an inspection by His Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI).

In just under half (49 per cent) of the sample examined, letters sent by CPS failed to inform the complainant about delays or did not clearly confirm whether the complaint had been resolved.

In their thematic inspection of the quality and timeliness of complaints handled by the CPS, inspectors uncovered significant regional variations in the quality of letters and the timeliness of reply. The worst performing CPS Area responded to only 16 per cent of letters on time.

The report into complaints follows a thematic inspection in 2018 in which almost 75 per cent of letters were not meeting the standard expected.

HMCPSI’s Chief Inspector, Andrew Cayley KC, said:

“It is concerning that five years on, letters of complaint are still not being adequately addressed by the CPS. Many written responses go to victims of crime and the fact they are still receiving formulaic letters, or where basic details are wrong, is disappointing.

“Inspectors did uncover some good examples which showed improvements had been made, but there has been an insufficient overall progress since 2018.

“The CPS must act urgently to get a grip of this situation. This is not a case of us singling out letters which had simple spelling mistakes – there were real inadequacies, and a review of the system is needed now to restore confidence.”

HMCPSI examined 351 letters sent by CPS between January and December 2022. Victims of crime were the largest group to receive letters following complaints (66 per cent), followed by defendants (19 per cent).

Inspectors uncovered areas of good practice. Letters were found to be free from legal jargon and with a clear explanation of CPS decision making. HMCPSI also found that comprehensive and accessible guidance on complaints handling is available to staff.

Where it was appropriate, CPS provided an apology in 85 per cent of cases, prompt and proportionate remedies were offered in 72 per cent of applicable cases, and 83 per cent of letters expressed appropriate levels of empathy.

However, inspectors also found that CPS failed to update more than half of complainants (53 per cent) of delays in the handling of their complaint. If complainants were directed to other agencies, only 40 per cent of letters had appropriate signposting, and standard paragraphs were being used but were not always relevant to the complaint being made.

The report sets out five recommendations for the CPS, including strengthening guidance to make sure complainants are given the right information on timescales and clarifying the role connected to managing and monitoring complaints.

HMCPSI has also tasked CPS to improve the quality of complaint response letters showing a substantial improvement in the number of letters rated as adequate by December 2024.


CASE STUDY ONE A victim of domestic abuse complained to the CPS after their case collapsed. The victim became aggrieved at CPS’ offer of £200 and when they complained again, that a cash payment was inappropriate, CPS failed to understand the victim’s motivations and instead doubled the payment.

CASE STUDY TWO A victim in an allegation of a malicious communications offence wrote to the CPS requesting a Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) and included in the letter a complaint about the level of service. The CPS failed to initially recognise the complaint and when they did, the date of receipt was wrongly recorded and therefore the deadline for response was inaccurately calculated. The response was again late, unclear and did not address all the issues raised.

CASE STUDY THREE A victim of domestic abuse was dissatisfied with the outcome of their case and complained to the CPS that no measures had been put in place to protect them. CPS’s letter was perceived as ‘victim blaming’ and the response avoided discussing the issue of the non-molestation order when the complainant specifically referred to it.


The full report can be accessed here: CPS Handling of complaints (690 kB)

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact HMCPSI press office on 0204 5743 168.