SUPPLEMENTARY MEMORANDA FROM CROWN PROSECUTION
SERVICE (PAC 97-98/139)
The Main Issues and Recommendations in
the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report on the Crown Prosecution
This paper is a preliminary response to the
C&AG's report on the CPS and deals with the main issues discussed
in the report and the recommendations.
The following paragraphs respond briefly to
the issues raised by the NAO on:-
1. the level of discontinuance;
2. performance management including the
corporate performance measures and the variation in Area performance;
3. the CPS's case tracking computer system
(SCOPE) and the work on a private finance initiative for the future
provision of IT services;
The quality of evidence in police files and
the timely delivery of those files to the CPS is the principal
factor in the rate and timeliness of discontinuance decisions.
The CPS will continue to work with the police through Joint Performance
Management to identify the reasons for discontinuance. This will
help to eliminate the waste of resources resulting from the unnecessary
commencement of proceedings. The timely delivery of police files
to the CPS will enable earlier decisions where cases must be discontinued.
The CPS has already adopted the revised target of discontinuance
before the second hearing in line with the NAO advice.
2. Performance measurement
In 1996 the CPS introduced revised corporate
performance measures to provide a clearer focus on the CPS's outputs,
particularly in relation to timeliness, quality and cost. During
the first year, results were varied in terms of the efficiency
and reliability of the system and local performance was patchy.
In 1997 the CPS reviewed the new system (temporarily suspending
it to enable revisions to be made) and subsequently introduced
changes which reduced the number of measures and streamlined the
collection process to improve efficiency and reliability.
The CPS has now set national and local specific
targets for improvements in performance. These recognise that
CPS performance is affected by the performance of other agencies
in the criminal system and, in particular, the timeliness and
quality of files received from the police.
Area performance will vary because of the local
impact of other agencies on the CPS. Targeting specific improvements
on poor performance can reduce the extent of variation. The CPS
will continue to refine its performance measurement needs, focusing
on timeliness, quality and cost and driving forward performance
improvements through targeting. The CPS will adapt external reporting
to explain more simply the measures and the CPS's performance
3. Scope and the Private Finance Initiative
Changes in legislation and in the organisation
of the CPS have both hampered the introduction of an efficient
computer system for CPS Areas. As a result, the project exceeded
its original timescale and budget. The CPS will continue to use
SCOPE as its principal case tracking system, and will make some
minor improvements to it, but the future now lies in a PFI solution.
The CPS intends to integrate its systems with the wider criminal
justice system community and take advantage of new developments
in IT. The CPS has initiated a project to procure future IS services
under PFI. We intend the new IS service to improve the quality
and timeliness of casework decisions; increase the efficiency
of the casework process through automation and electronic communications
with other agencies, particularly the police; and facilitate the
efficient capture and presentation of management information.
This should be achieved over the next two years.
4. The CPS Inspectorate
The CPS Inspectorate is staffed by members of
the CPS and reports to the DPP. A number of alternative options
would be possible. The Inspectorate could bring in staff from
the public or private sector to introduce special expertise on
a particular topic or topics. The prosecution decisions and decision-making
processes of the CPS, however, would be inspected most effectively
by those who have an intimate and detailed knowledge of the prosecution
system: that is, by prosecutors of seniority and experience.
The present CPS Inspectorate and its Chief Inspector
do not feel inhibited by the fact that he reports to the DPP.
If there is a perception to the contrary, however, the Chief Inspector
could report to someone other than the DPP and this could be the
Attorney General. The role of the CPS Inspectorate is currently
being considered by the Glidewell Review.
5. Returned Briefs
The CPS and the Bar have agreed a scheme (taking
effect on 1 February 1998) to monitor and improve the return rate
of briefs delivered to barristers. Barristers' chambers will provide
a monthly report to the CPS showing the extent to which a chambers
has complied with the agreed Service Standard on returned briefs
which was introduced in November 1996. The monthly reports will
contain data on performance. CPS Branches and chambers will discuss
and agree targets for improvement.
6. The Glidewell Review
The CPS and the Glidewell Review team are continuing
to discuss proposals for the organisation and management in the
new 42 Areas and the cost implications. The final report is expected
to be available shortly.
The NAO's Recommendations
The NAO report contains 22 recommendations.
There are recommendations for CPS HQ and separately for the CCPs
in charge of the new Areas. The attached note provides a preliminary
response on the 11 recommendations for CPS HQ. The CPS supports
the broad thrust of the 11 recommendations for the new CCPs and
will work with them to encourage their adoption within the national
framework for the CPS. As the NAO directed these recommendations
to the new CCPs under the new 42 Area structure and these individuals
have not yet been appointed, it would however be inappropriate
to respond to them in more details at this stage.
NAO Report on the CPS
|Recommendations for Crown Prosecution
| ||Service Headquarters
|12||Ensure that any reductions in staff are targeted to parts of the CPS where scope for greater efficiency can be demonstrated, and that performance, especially in the delivery of the service at local level, is not adversely affected.
||Staff reductions through early retirement schemes have been targeted on National and Area HQ functions and away from Branch and caseworkers. Despite reductions in expenditure provision, Branch budgets in aggregate have been protected. Activity based costing will identify where greater efficiency can be achieved at Branch level.
|13||Accelerate the development of tools such as activity costing and staff profiling to assist Areas in achieving best use of staff, and encourage Areas to monitor the proportion of time which prosecutors have to spend in court, in order to highlight pressure points as they arise.
||The benchmarking of Area performance using activity costing will be continued although there are resource constraints on the staff numbers involved. CCPs will be encouraged to monitor the time CPS lawyers spend in court.
|14||Reformulate the new target for timeliness and discontinuance in terms of reducing the proportion of cases discontinued at a second court hearing or later, thus encouraging all earlier appropriate discontinuances equally, without detracting from effective consultation with the police.
||A new target on discontinuance before the second hearing is being introduced.
|15||Test the CPS's performance framework against the requirements of resource accounting, in particular the need for measurable objectives.
||In the context of resource accounting, the development of schedule 5 and the OPA statement will be used to test the CPS's performance framework.
|16||Present information for external reporting and accountability to give a true account of performance whilst at the same time ensuring that results are understandable to the lay reader.
||The presentation of CPS information is being reconsidered with a view to improving the presentation in the next Annual Report.
|17||As performance measures become more established and more prior year data are available, agree with Chief Crown Prosecutors specific performance targets and priorities for their Areas (rather than expecting only unspecified improvement), and hold them accountable.
||CCPs agreed some specific targets for 1997-98 and more specific targets will be agreed for 1998-99 and for future years as experience with the measures increases. CCPs will continue to be held accountable for achievement of targets.
|18||Assist benchmarking of local performance by profiling and grouping Areas with similar characteristics into "families", and by ensuring that Areas are able to share meaningful comparative information.
||The benchmarking studies in 1997 will be extended to include more Areas/Branches and will allow Areas to be grouped and to share information. A pilot project is taking place to make available to Areas direct access to the corporate information system.
|19||Work with particularly poorly performing Areas to identify the reasons for poor results, and encourage the best performing Area teams to identify good practice and share it with other Areas.
||The regular reviews with CCPs will continue to address poor performance. Best practice will be identified through benchmarking studies and disseminated to all Areas.
|20||Ensure that the recommendations of the internal review of complaints are implemented and that Areas use the information collected to target improvements in performance.
||A new complaints procedure was introduced and publicised in December 1997. A Customer Service Unit has been set up. The complaints procedure is being made available through the Internet.
|21||Act urgently to complete computerisation so that all Chief Crown Prosecutors and their Area teams can benefit from improved information technology support.
||The CPS is vigorously pursuing a PFI for the provision of IT services in future. At the same time, the CPS is working locally with the police on several related IT projects in Durham, Gloucestershire, Suffolk, etc.
|22||Consider the establishment of a fully independent external Inspectorate, which would enhance public confidence and bring the CPS Inspectorate into line with the inspectorates of the major criminal justice agencies (the police, prisons and the magistrates' courts).
||This proposal will be considered in the light of the response to the recommendations from the Glidewell Review of the structure and the operations of the CPS.
Crown Prosecution Service
23 January 1998