Examination of Witnesses(Questions 20-39)|
TUESDAY 23 JULY 2002
PHILLIPS GCB, MR
CB AND MS
20. I do not want to go down the asylum route
too far because we will come back to that later. Can I just turn
to the target for offenders, not just for young offenders? We
got the impression from the Home Office that the target that was
to be set for March 2001 has been delayed. When do you think that
target will be set?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I have to be clear about which
particular target we are looking at. Is this about delay?
21. Arrest to sentence for all offenders, not
just the fast-tracking of young offenders.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) No, that has not yet been set.
We can give you figures for a number of the areas of delay because
we have our own internal targets for that, but I think that has
not yet been set.
22. Do you have any idea when it is likely to
(Ms Rowe) We will be discussing targets with the Home
Office and the CPS now in the light of the SR2002 settlements.
So I would hope there will be targets set before Christmas, probably.
23. Before Christmas?
(Ms Rowe) I should think so.
24. Would you say that part of the delay is
because of the emphasis on getting and achieving the target in
dealing with young offenders, or is that a separate issue?
(Ms Rowe) We gave priority to the target for young
offenders and a lot of resource and effort went into that, because
that was seen as the most important issue to tackle. So that came
first and then we are looking at the other areas.
25. So it would have had some impact?
(Ms Rowe) Yes, it would.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) If I may say so, also, the setting
of an overall, global target is actually a difficult exercise.
We have been quite successful, I think, in setting individual
targets for particular parts of the system, but taking it right
from the moment when an offence is reported, as it were, or an
arrest takes place, right through to the end, is quite a difficult
analytical exercise to make sure you have got it right. So I think
it is not just being diverted, in a sense, on to the persistent
young offenders target, it is also intellectually quite demanding.
26. Why is that?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Because you have to try to set
something which deals with the varying rhythm of work and pressures
of work of, really, quite different organisationsthe police,
the CPS and the courtsand trying to do that and then adding
up the bits is not easy. I think that is the simplest explanation.
(Ms Rowe) There is also the case mix because you have
some very long and complex cases which you know are going to take
considerably longer than others, and if you try and average them
out you do not necessarily get a very helpful statistic about
what is really happening.
27. Perhaps we should not be setting that type
(Ms Rowe) The sort of targets we are going to be looking
at are targets for specific categories of case. That is the area
where it is falling at the moment. I think that will actually
be more helpful.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I think it is important that
we have targets in areas where each of the agencies knows they
can operate effectively. I personally agree with you, I think
that is a better way forward than just having a global target
that is not then translated down into individual targets for actions
by each agency.
28. Mr Magee, would you like to add to that?
(Mr Magee) May I say a word about the whole system,
as far as criminal justice is concerned? I am chairing a group
with practitioners from each of the criminal justice agencies
looking at the specific point that you mentionwhether there
are any of the targets that we set individually that are getting
in the way of one another. As an agency chief executive I have
a set of targets and a pile of cash with which to achieve those,
but we want to make sure that the overriding government objectives
are met rather than that parts of the system, as Sir Hayden was
saying, perform well, possibly to the detriment of other parts
of the system. So I have got a group together which includes representatives
from each of the agencies and that reports into the strategic
board that John Gieve leads and Sir Hayden and the DPP sit on.
That work is at a very early stage. That is one part of it. Another
part of it is thisand again it refers back to a question
that was asked earlier: the word "culture" is perhaps
over-used but it seems to me, as somebody who has been an operational
manager for a long time, that it is not actually very helpful
to people at the front-line to have rafts of targets, some of
them set generally and nationally and some of them specifically
and locally, that begin to get in the way of one another. I think
what we have to do is listen to what local areas are saying to
us about the plethora of targets and try to act on it and see
whether we cannot remove some of the gratuitous target-setting
that goes on. This can occur in all sorts of different wayssometimes
collecting information that may go back, we have found already,
a long number of years. It is relatively easy to put a stop to
all of that, but the process of engagement with people, so that
they are very clear about what it is that the Government wants
to achieve collectively and how it is that their part of that
fits in, is a very important part of the process.
Bridget Prentice: Thank you very much.
29. Sir Hayden, you are a civil servant of the
old school, I think. Are you not?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) If you mean I am relatively
senior as a Permanent Secretary, I will take it in that sense.
30. You have been around a long time. You will
remember the days when we did not have targets.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Yes, I can.
31. Do you think they are a good idea or a bad
idea, in principle?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I think, in principle, they
are a good idea. The key thing is first to make sure you are really
setting targets that are not just those that are measurable but
those that really do produce outcomes. That is intellectually
difficult. Secondly, I do believe you should keep the number small
and sensible, rather than allow rafts and rafts of targets to
grow. There was a period in which more and more things sprang
up all over the place, producing the sort of results that Ian
has described. I think we should try and get a small number, concentrate
on the big picture and then try to make sure that locally, where
people are delivering things on the ground, they understand what
that clearly means in their particular locality and adapt for
that as necessary. So I think there has been an advance here;
there was a period when we had far too many and I hope now that
we are reining back on that and focusing and concentrating more
clearly. That partly goes to the point that was raised earlier
about having them publicly explicable and not a total raft of
32. So you think we are getting now to the point
where there is a happy medium?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I think we are moving in a better
direction and we are reining the number back and focusing much
more on real outcomes, rather than simply things that happen to
be easily measurable, which may give you a totally partial impression
of the organisation. I have discussed this with Ian Magee on a
number of occasions and we have tried to make sure that in relation
to the court service we are concentrating on things that really
matter and not just getting people to count things because they
are easy to count.
33. Do you think the Treasury understands that?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Yes, I think they do understand
that now. Certainly they have taken the view, I think, in the
SR2002 spending round that we should progressively try to limit
the number of key targets, particularly the ones that are published
and to which we are publicly accountable. I am sure that is right.
34. How did it all get so out of control?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I think in the early days, when
people were told they had to have targets, people got it into
their headsand I think this is true in departments and,
probably, in the Treasurythat the more you had the more
points you got. I think there was a real sense in which that grew
up. Talking about the over-use of the word "culture",
there was a period in which that was the culture. I do not know
whether Ian, from his experience, confirms this as a true record
or it is just my prejudice. I think the next phase was one of
people saying to themselves "Well, are these the real targets
that matter?" Often it turned out that they did not, they
were just there to tick the box to show you had done it. Now I
think we are into a phase where we are saying "First of all
let us choose the targets that really do matter and, secondly,
let us really limit their number to those things that are absolutely
essential to government policy."
(Mr Magee) I have worked in three very different executive
agencies since 1989nowhere else but executive agenciesand
what I observe is this: (a) that what Sir Hayden says is right
and (b), that that is, in some part, down to a maturity of approach
that did not exist, candidly, in the beginning. There was a sense,
when one first went into executive agencies, that the centre of
the department was targeting the easily measurable and we all
know that you get what you measure. So it was not a particularly
difficult job in those days for agency chief executives worth
their salt to meet those targets. Whether it made a difference
to what it was that we were really committed to, which was improving
significantly the service that we give to the public, was a different
matter altogether. The maturity of approach comes from the centre
of the department and the relationship with those on whom targets
would be set, and I do believe that we have made significant progressprobably
exponential progress, actuallyover the last four or five
35. So you are reasonably confident that in
two or three years' time when you come to see us we will not be
told that today's targets have been amended, dropped, replaced,
modified or subsumed?
(Mr Magee) No, I cannot be reasonably confident of
that for all sorts of reasons. I suppose the first one is that
life moves on and things assume different degrees of priority
and importance, and we have to respond to that.
(Sir Hayden Phillips) Chairman, I will say that obviously
we cannot give that guarantee but what we will try to achieve,
with the Treasury, is greater consistency, year-on-year, so you
do not get this swinging about, and you do not therefore get the
plethora of comparisons that one has to make. I think that is
a very important target to set for target-setting.
Chairman: On that point we will conclude
on targets. Thank you.
36. Looking at delays in the courts, what are
the latest figures for the time from arrest to completion for
(Mr Magee) In the magistrates' courts from listing
to completion I do have, and that is 34 days or less. That is
(Sir Hayden Phillips) I think it has come down from
35 days in 1997 to 28 days in 2001. So that is an improvement.
Another figure we can give you, if it is all right, is the time
taken from charge to the first listing of a case, which fell from
21 days in 1999 to eight days in 2001. So in both of those areas
within the court process there has been a very substantial improvement,
and you are aware of the results on persistent young offenders,
where that target is met early and it is now down to 67 days.
So we can give you the elements of it but not necessarily easily
the overall global target.
37. Has that trend continued since September
(Mr Magee) Yes, as far as I am aware it has continued.
I do not have the figures to hand, because I guess it will be
later on this year when the annual figure becomes available.
38. The Department's annual report describes
a target which must be related to the speed with which cases are
taken through the crown courts. Why was the target of maintaining
the rate of 78% of Crown Court cases commencing within 16 weeks
in 1999/2000 first of all "amended", then "not
met" and finally "not mentioned"?
(Mr Magee) We still do have that target, in fact.
It has been a constant that we strive to clear 78% of cases within
that period. The mixture of work in the Crown Court has changed
pretty significantly over the last three years. For example, there
are, on the whole, fewer guilty pleas now, and you can obviously
dispose of a guilty plea rather more quickly. The good news on
that target is that for the first months of this yearfrom
April onwardswe are meeting that target for the first time,
I think, ever in the Court Service. We are now running at 79%.
39. Good. Turning to witnesses, it is a target
to improve the service for witnesses by reducing the average waiting
time and by reducing unnecessary attendance. What is the actual
target for unnecessary attendances by March 2004?
(Sir Hayden Phillips) We have reduced the percentage
of witnesses called but then do not give evidence, as it were,
from 53% (that was in 2000) to 50% in 2001. These are small but
significant changes in terms of improvement. We also have a concern
about how long people have to wait at court, and the average waiting
time is about an hour and 20 minutes, which is again a small improvement
from before. I think they are the two main figures that are in
(Mr Magee) I do not think that these figures are of
themselves ones that should cause any complacency because we all
recognise that attending court puts stress on witnesses and we
have got to do our utmost to get down still further below those
figures. Fifty-one per cent of all witnesses in the magistrates
court are dealt with within the hour, and obviously averages disguise
some much longer cases as well. It is an issue about co-operation
across the criminal justice system too, because, as you will realise,
it requires all agencies to come together in order to reduce that
witness waiting time. We have got some measures in hand to do
that. I can think of two. One is that we have introduced into
the magistrates' court world a "cracked" and ineffective
trials monitoring scheme. It was only introduced in April of this
year and we have not got the results yet, but it will help to
identify the reasons for unnecessary attendance and that will
give us the opportunity to try to deal with those reasons. The
second is that the Magistrates' Court Inspectorate is going to
produce a thematic report on court listing practices later on
this year. Obviously the results will be in the public domain.
Again, that will help us look at the good and the less good, as
far as listing practices are concerned, which in its turn will
help with how we treat witnesses in the courts.