CPS Wales communication with victims of crime 'poor'

Barrister Jonathan Rees
Image caption In February, Jonathan Elystan Rees said CPS lawyers and barristers were "operating with one hand tied behind their back"

The Crown Prosecution Service in Wales has been rated as "poor" by inspectors for its communication with victims of crime.

Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) said the service was generally "performing positively" and delivering value for money.

But charity, Victim Support Wales, said it was "not meeting its obligations".

CPS Wales said it was "working hard" to ensure communication with victims was of a "high standard".

The report, published on Wednesday, found victims of crime or their bereaved relatives often had no information about the discontinuance of court proceedings or pleas.

Victim communication letters were not sent out in more than 45.5% of cases and only sent out in a "timely manner" in 50% of cases.

There was also a " lack of empathy" in some letters and they were sometimes sent out with the wrong information on outcomes.

'Feel forgotten'

Lucy Hastings, director at Victim Support, said: "Poor communication can make victims feel forgotten and not treating them with the respect they deserve may increase their distress and make it harder for them to move beyond their experience of crime."

CPS Wales was rated "excellent" for managing resources, "good" for managing performance, "fair" for the effectiveness of its joint working, with an overall score of "good" for its governance and value for money.

It was rated as "fair" for its compliance with disclosure requirements and casework reviews and decisions, "good" rating for case preparation and progression, "poor" for communicating with victims, with a "fair" overall rating for casework quality and service delivery for users.

The report found conviction rates in magistrates' courts was "noticeably better" than the national average - 87.2% versus 83.8% - and "slightly" better in the crown court - 79.9% compared to 79.1%.

However, the inspectorate said its crown court court performance was "declining" in contested cases, with those relating to rape and serious sexual offences a "cause for concern".

HMCPSI examined 120 magistrates' courts and crown court files finalised between September 2015 and March 2016, surveyed staff and got feedback from witnesses, victims and partner agencies.

They found over half the police files were "not of sufficient quality" but "little or no challenge or feedback" was provided to forces.

However, CPS Wales was found to have delivered value for money - in the 12 months to December 2015, it spent £430 per case while the national average was £602.

HMCPSI chief inspector of Kevin McGinty said while it was a "positive report overall", ensuring high-quality and timely communication with victims was "essential".

Ed Beltrami, chief crown prosecutor for CPS Wales, said: "We recognise the need to provide an excellent service to victims and witnesses and we are already working hard to ensure that the quality of our communications with victims and witnesses is of a high standard and meets individual needs.

"This includes increasing the resources available within our victim liaison unit, implementing new arrangements for speaking with witnesses at court, on-going training for prosecutors and gathering feedback from victims."

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