This week the BBC have portrayed the CPS as being “on the brink of collapse“. Of course this is wrong. They are not about to collapse. As an institution of the State they are not about to put the “Sorry we are closed” signs up. And they are not on the “brink” of something.
They are well and truly where they are. And where they are is in a deep, deep hole.
For many moons now, many…. no, let me rephrase that….. most people involved in the Criminal Justice System have been able to see that the CPS are barely functioning. The sign may say “Open For Business” but the quality of the service provided rates somewhere on a par with DelBoy and Rodney as renovators of chandeliers.
What does that mean? The reality is that court orders are regularly missed, unused material is not properly reviewed, files are left untouched, evidence is not served, trials are not ready, work is undone, cases are adjourned and defendants walk free that should not.
Do not get me wrong. The CPS is not the only element of the Criminal Justice System in disarray. The Police are over stretched, the Court estate is crumbling, prisons are understaffed, morale amongst Probation Officers is rock bottom, the waiting time for a trial grows daily, interpretation is a lottery of which language you will get and the defence are running on a shoestring.
So what has been the CPS response to the media finally awaking to the mess that one limb of democracy exists in? It is contained within a blog published by them today. In it they describe the BBC report as “nonsense”. They point at a series of statistics and say “actually we are doing really quite brilliantly”.
Were the CPS a sex offender this state of denial would earn them the most condemnatory of Pre-Sentence Reports.
The CPS ignore what I believe every Crown Court Judge would tell them. They chose instead to point to statistics. No doubt they would say “Don’t listen to the anecdotes, count the numbers.”
Let us look how the numbers are a nonsense.
The Blog makes the point that in the Magistrates’ Court the defence and the courts are responsible for more ineffective trials than the CPS are. “So forget your stories about us not serving evidence and look at the stats. See? We are the least bad and that makes us the best and ignore all those anecdotal tales of us being rubbish because the stats do not lie, my friend.”
But let me tell you a little anecdote. It is about a Crown Court case but it could be any case. The case happened to be listed today. The Counsel instructed on the case had written three advices to the CPS asking for things to be done. Despite that, at court today, there was no file, no indictment, expert evidence had only been served the day before and nothing that Counsel had asked to be done had in fact been done. And the lack of resources in the Court system rode to the rescue because the case was adjourned through lack of court time. That will be chalked up as a stat agains the Court, not the CPS. The numbers do not tell the story.
The blog goes on to trumpet the percentages of guilty pleas. Those are guilty pleas that are being dragged out of defendants who are expected to plead guilty before they know the case and against them and well before the CPS have done things like “serve the evidence.” The Government and the Judiciary are conspiring to paper over the cracks by withholding credit from those who wish to embody the maxim “innocent until proven guilty.” The maintaining or rise in guilty pleas has nothing to do with the efficiency of the CPS and everything to do with the rigging of the system to “encourage” guilty pleas.
If the football authorities double the size of the goal, the resultant increase in goals scored is not down to an increase in the skill of the players….. And do not get me started on the impact of the Criminal Courts Charge on people choosing to plead guilty.
It’s not the reliance on statistics instead of the truth that bothers me the most. It is this paragraph:
Like all publicly funded organisations, the CPS has played its part in reducing overall budgets. Over the last 4 years we have made savings of £338.1 million, which equates to almost 25%, comparing 2015-16 funding to 2010-11. This has been achieved while continuing to deliver justice to the public we serve, and maintaining strong performance levels.
It is almost as if the CPS believe it is their job to deliver savings. It is not. It is their job to deliver an effective and efficient prosecutorial service. And if they cannot do so because of a lack of resources it is their duty, the DUTY of those at the Head of the Organisation, to bring this to the attention of the public.
Some areas of public spending have been spared cuts. The Criminal Justice System has not. This is due to the ignorance and short-sightedness of politicians. So many of us are telling them it is wrong. Not with false statistics but with expert testimony and first hand eye witness accounts of what is going wrong on a daily basis. The sort of evidence that the hard working and dedicated employees of the CPS rely upon every day. And the sort of thing the management now choose to ignore.
I do not criticise those who work under the pressure caused by the lack of resources. I do not criticise those who spend most of their time fighting fires on every front. I criticise those who deny it happens. To the Managment I say “Shame on you.” They should be telling the public the truth and fighting for proper funding. Not shrinking into misleading denial.