You are here

CPS must review advocacy strategy, inspector says

13 March 2012

The Crown Prosecution Service must review its advocacy strategy, the CPS Inspectorate has said in a report published today.

Chief Inspector Michael Fuller said that although at the “highest strategic level” there was a commitment to focusing on quality, rather than the previous emphasis on volume work which saved the most money, this was not being reflected at local level.

Fuller said area managers had “largely continued to focus” on fee savings in Crown Court cases.

He said there had been “elements of improvements and decline” since his report in 2009 and there was now less criticism of individual Crown advocates from judges and self-employed barristers.

“However, opportunities are still missed and there are failures to challenge clearly inadmissible and prejudicial evidence,” Fuller said.

“A number of advocates still have an over reliance on case notes and there is a continuing lack of confidence among some crown advocates.”

Fuller said they were “not managing to develop their experience of trial advocacy in part due to the limited opportunities available, the high levels of cracked trials on the day in the cases allocated to them and the volume of non-contested work they undertake”.

Despite the high volume, Fuller said the quality of non-contested work had declined since 2009, while that of self-employed barristers had improved, particularly in the most complex cases.

Fuller said effective case preparation remained a problem for Crown advocates and they were “less likely to be prepared” than they were in 2009.

In the magistrates’ courts, he said associate prosecutors were continuing to perform well and the “quality of their advocacy differs little from a lawyer with similar experience”.

Keir Starmer QC, the DPP, said the report “highlights our commitment to quality advocacy”, including the successful introduction of the advocacy quality monitoring scheme and continued success of associate prosecutors.

“Our increased use of in-house advocates has resulted in significant savings since 2006 and at the same time the overall quality of advocacy has remained high,” Starmer said.

“The report has identified several areas that need further improvement and we will rise to the challenges set out and continue to improve the quality of both in-house and external advocacy in the criminal courts.”

Categorised in:

The Bar