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CPS North East failing to get cases in magistrates’ courts to trial

HMCPSI concludes the area faces considerable challenges, against a backdrop of reducing resources, if it is to reverse the decline in performance

24 June 2015

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An inspection into the North East area of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has found a drop in performance in the magistrates' courts, with fewer successful outcomes and contested cases being reviewed far too close to the trial date.

In the report, 'Review of the Performance of CPS North East: Follow Up Inspection', HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) examined how the area had performed since its last full inspection. There has been mixed progress in implementing previous recommendations for improvement.

The report from 2012 found that many parts of CPS North East were wholly satisfactory. However, this success was offset by late magistrates' court casework preparation.

Since the original report, the North East, which covers Northumbria, Durham, and Cleveland, has undergone significant structural changes, lost 20 per cent of its staff, and has new chief and deputy crown prosecutors. It has also had to deal with a substantial budgetary overspend.

In the 2014/15 financial year the area's potential overspend was estimated to be £1.08m, made up of a non-ring-fenced administration overspend of £0.8m against a budget of just over £12,360,000, and a prosecution costs overspend of £0.28m against a budget of just under £4,995,000.

At the time of the follow-up inspection the estimated overspend had reduced to around £650,000.

Based on the North East's current structure, workload expectations, and anticipated budget allocation for the 2015/16 financial year, the area has estimated that it will overspend by £0.97m.

In the latest report, HMCPSI has concluded that, if it is to reverse the decline in casework performance, the area faces considerable challenges against a backdrop of reducing resources.

Among the detailed findings, the report examined the North East's progress against the five recommendations made in the 2012 report.

While the report found that the area was making fair to good progress on recommendations that were still applicable, CPS North East had made poor progress in decreasing the rate at which, and reasons for, cases in magistrates' courts failed to reach trial.

Kevin McGinty, chief inspector at HMCPSI, said: 'The area has yet to achieve the timely review and preparation of cases which is essential if the Transforming Summary Justice initiative in the magistrates' courts is to be delivered successfully.'

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