Tuesday, February 05, 2013

More Work Needed

Yesterday, in a by-no-means-untypical start to the day, we walked into court to find the prosecutor's seat empty, his desk bare of papers. Apparently someone had called in sick, and we were relieved when a replacement CPS man rushed in at 10.15. Nevertheless we had to give him half an hour to download the files, and have a quick look at them, before having huddled conversations with defence advocates.
Court 3 was worst off; they had no prosecutor either, and lost the whole morning. They had an early lunch and finally got going at 1.15. We are so tightly scheduled these days that any loss of court time can have a big knock-on effect.The CPS know that they have problems, but they need to do better than this.


  1. I've often thought that its the CPS, above all other CJS agencies, that require 'reform' most urgently.

    For serious jobs they seem good, but for the general every day business they seem to be a huge waste of time and money.

    In addition they actually push the police to issue cautions, because - for some reason - many in the CPS will do anything to avoid sending a job to court.

    There are still a few cases that get prosecuted very effectively without the CPS, licensing is an example. It would save time, paperwork and money if we allowed the police to directly prosecute the majority of offences themselves as we did before the 1990s.

    1. I don't think they need reform as much as proper investment. Instead of hiring qualified solicitors and barristers you are much more likely to get a job with them if you are not a qualified lawyer. They call them case workers. You can also be part-qualified and you are called an Associate Prosecutor and are allowed to appear in court!

      Currently, the CPS is investing heavily in new fancy computer equipment that simply doesn't work very well.

      Spend less on computers and more on real lawyer and you'll find the CPS can be pretty decent!

  2. It doesn't help when an agent prosecutor is sent, as he or she can't make decisions on the hoof and is forever asking for a few minutes to call base and get approval. Those five minutes soon add up to an hour of delay. Re cautions, last week the CPS asked the bench to dismiss an assault by beating case because it had since been dealt with by a caution; good for the clear-up figures, but not for justice.

  3. That people go sick and that that is disruptive is part of the human condition!

    But yes: the CPS is operating at the limit and sometimes fails dismally.

  4. One of the key benchmarks of civil service standards used to be "the minimum necessary to ensure continuity of service". Depending on what you had determined to be the essential tasks that required continuity of service - and there are very real differences of perception in this respect, as the following example may show - it was a matter of ministerial responsibility to ensure that certain functions could always be performed, and if not, the Minister was held directly responsible and expected to resign.

    The CPS is the classic example of a de-skilled service that has lost the sense of its core functions, and can't now even see the wood for the trees. I feel considerable sympathy for the remaining prosecutors, and the agents too, some of whom are outstanding. But the service is no longer fit for purpose. The return of 'police courts' is not devoid of sense, but not at the price of allowing them the opportunity to caution every careless driver below the 'dangerous driving' threshold, and categorise the vast majority of violent offences as deserving of out of court disposals (including 'assault PC' cases, and those with vulnerable victims). This may mean that the Magistrates' Courts get to see more higher end business than in the past (and many fewer cases overall), but it ignores the


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