In the Media

'Fair' rating motivates CPS

PUBLISHED March 16, 2006

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is forging ahead when it comes to quality of service, according to its latest evaluation, and has launched a recruitment drive to promote the use of in-house advocates ? but there are concerns that lack of resources are putting further progress at risk.

Research by the CPS Inspectorate ? which looked at areas such as leadership, managing resources, pre-charge decision making, casework and services to victims and witnesses ? showed that 38 of the 42 CPS areas were rated ?fair? or better, with just four regarded as ?poor?.

Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald QC said it was looking particularly at those four areas, but was also intent on improving performance overall. ?A fair rating is satisfactory, but with scope for improvement,? he added.

But Kris Venkatasami, national convenor for prosecutors? union the First Division Association, said the CPS would perform far better if it had more staff and money pumped in. ?People are overworked and don?t have time to go through all the cases as much as they would like,? he said.

The reports came in the same week it emerged that the CPS is looking to recruit more in-house higher court advocates. Advocacy strategy head Angela Deal told the Gazette it wanted to combine the recruitment exercise with providing training for existing staff in the hope that those dealing with charging would get an overall picture of how the system runs. ?Increased experience of trial advocacy makes better CPS lawyers all round,? she said.

She stressed that the CPS would continue using external advocates and denied that there would be any impact on the quality of advice provided, adding that the CPS was likely to save only ?2 million.

But Mr Venkatasami said existing CPS staff were annoyed by the change. ?We welcome [the CPS] bringing in people with trial experience, but we are disappointed they are not using lawyers who are already here,? he said. ?The CPS has around 400 higher court advocates and we would have expected them to be used.?