In the Media

Lawyers in the firing line for avoiding proper use of case management system

PUBLISHED November 25, 2006

The majority of trial files in the Crown Prosecution Service?s (CPS) case management system do not contain basic required information, according to a report on the development of the system. But it is not the technology that is the problem but the lawyers and managers using it.

The CPS?s Compass case management system is generally a success, according to the study by the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.

However, some lawyers and managers are not using the system properly, which showed up in the report as the presence of incomplete or ?unsatisfactory? trial files.

In random samples of trial files, the inspectorate found that only around 40% contained initial or full reviews, elements it ?expected? to find in trial files. When the inspectorate calculated how many files contained ?acceptable? initial reviews as well as full reviews, only 26% of the 160 files were ?satisfactory?, a situation it called ?disappointing in light of the comparatively low threshold applied?.

The report appeared to point the finger at lawyers and managers for not entering information on the system, blaming its flexibility for too great an ease to ?opt out or avoid using the system for key functions?. The answer, said the report, is to force users to systematically use Compass better.

But the ease with which Compass can be used under the pressures prosecutors face is a problem, according to both the report and Ian Kelcey, chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association.

?I?m not surprised administrative people are using it more, because they?re not the ones having to spend a lot of time in court,? he said. ?Lawyers do, and have targets they have to meet and certain diktats the court expects them to meet. I don?t think they?re Luddite lawyers, I just think they?re fairly pushed in terms of time and resources.?

Claire Hamon, the CPS?s head of IT, said the service ?fully endorses? the report?s recommendations and said she was ?pleased this review has recognised that [Compass] has the capability to improve the quality and timeliness of casework and that significant progress has been made?.