THE Crown Prosecution Service has been slammed in a government report over the number of Dorset cases it fails to secure convictions in.
A report by Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate found that the former CPS unit of Dorset had a higher number of “unsuccessful outcomes” – any case which, after charge, does not result in either a guilty plea or a conviction – than the national average.
Inspectors found that reasons included poor charging decisions by the police, especially around motoring matters. The report said that prosecutors were discontinuing cases but not telling the police what was needed to secure a conviction.
There was also evidence of some CPS decisions to discontinue that were “not as robust as they should have been”.
The report highlights “poor decision making” and found that although monitoring of unsuccessful outcomes was carried out, there was “little evidence in Dorset of it being used as an aid to improving performance”.
It also said that some lawyers were discontinuing cases rather than risking acquittal.
HM Chief Inspector Michael Fuller QPM said: “This report has highlighted a number of significant issues in the CPS unit in Dorset, not least an over-cautious culture and an inadequate level of scrutiny.
“My inspectors remain concerned that the weak decision making of some lawyers will become diluted amongst the wider area caseload. I hope that the CPS will act quickly on the recommendations in the report and that improvements are soon evident.”
Kate Brown, chief crown prosecutor for the CPS in Wessex, said that the review was carried out while CPS Dorset was being merged with Hampshire, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight to form CPS Wessex.
She said that regular reviews had been put in place to scrutinise unsuccessful outcomes.
“The Bournemouth office that HMCPSI visited closed on November, 15, 2013. At the time the Inspectorate visited this office, our process and ways of working were going through radical changes.
“The Bournemouth office was part of CPS Dorset, which with CPS Hampshire and Isle of Wight and Wiltshire merged into one Area CPS Wessex in 2011. Since then, we have undertaken a huge amount of work to ensure that throughout these three counties, the service that we deliver is consistent.”
She added that the period of upheaval had impacted on the feedback it had been able to give police, but said: “However, I am confident that now that we have completed the refocusing and re-structure of CPS Wessex that we will become more resilient and will be able to deliver a more efficient and effective service to the public we serve.”
THE report made the following recommendations:
Feedback should be provided to the police on police charge cases that are discontinued, identifying reasons for the discontinuance.
The area needs to ensure there is effective regular monitoring by senior management of discontinued cases and that lessons learned and trends identified are acted upon.
The area should consider reinstating Prosecution Team Performance Management meetings with the police.