HC Deb 11 July 2002 vol 388 cc1187-9W
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Solicitor-General how many(a) inspections and (b) thematic reviews have been undertaken in each CPS area since the inception of the HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate; and how long each took on average. [59348]

The Solicitor-General

[holding answer 12 June 2002]: Between May 2000 and May 2002 the Inspectorate inspected 37 of the 42 CPS areas. Gloucestershire was also the subject of a short follow-up inspection. Reports have been published on all these 38 inspections. West Midlands was also the subject of a follow-up inspection confined to a small aspect of its work, namely discharged committals. The inspection was extended to include scrutiny of police performance as well. The Inspectorate was assisted in the follow-sup by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Magistrates Courts Service Inspectorate. A report on this joint inspection is expected to be published in July 2002.

First inspections of the remaining five CPS areas are in progress and reports on all of them should be published by the end of September 2002.

The Inspectorate has carried out nine thematic reviews between January 1998 and May 2002. Each review involved visits to CPS branches or areas, varying in number between six and 16. Since April 1999 each of the 42 areas has featured in a thematic review on at least one occasion and several of them twice.

The length of an inspection of a CPS area will vary with the size of the area. The core inspection phases take 10 weeks for a smaller area and 20 weeks for a larger area, longer in the case of CPS London, the largest CPS area. Consultation with the area, agreeing the draft report and publishing the final version takes a further seven weeks or more after the completion of the field work.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Solicitor-General what action has been taken to reduce the number of(a) judge-ordered and (b) judge-directed acquittals since 1999. [60203]

The Solicitor-General

[holding answer 10 June 2002]: In 1999, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) introduced an adverse outcome analysis system. This provides CPS areas with a consistent means to identify reasons for adverse outcomes and also to allocate responsibility of any failure. This information is collated centrally.

For the last seven years, many areas of the CPS have had in place, with the police, a system of joint performance management that involves an appraisal of Crown Court acquittals, including those ordered and directed by the judge. This process provides areas with information showing particular trends and a means by which improvements can be made.

The Crown Prosecution Service produces quarterly summaries of unsuccessful case outcomes from information drawn from its various case tracking systems. This year the CPS and the police have begun to develop a joint case outcome analysis which builds on these two processes and will focus on avoidable case failure. Under this system, the reasons for judge ordered and judge directed acquittals in individual cases will be jointly assessed for individual training needs and other joint strategies for performance improvement.

The process will be supported by more sophisticated management information following the introduction of the CPS' Compass Case Management System due to roll out between April and December 2003.

The figures in the table show a fall in judge directed acquittals from 1,777 in 1999 to 1,471 last year, a reduction of 17.2 per cent. Over the same period judge ordered acquittals rose from 9,616 to 11,825, an increase of 23 per cent. Much of this increase can be attributed to recent changes in procedures. Since January 2001, the prosecution, unlike before, have been able to discontinue cases in the Crown Court. Although this is a prosecution decision, the current system records these as judge ordered acquittals.

Judge ordered and judge directed acquittals, 1999–2002
Judge ordered acquittals Judge directed acquittals
Number of acquittals 9,616 1,777
Percentage of completed cases 11.1 2.0
Number of acquittals 10,145 1,755
Percentage of completed cases 12.3 2.1
Number of acquittals 11,825 1,471
Percentage of completed cases 14.0 1.7