CPS’ handling of fatal RTAs deemed poor

Specialist prosecutor role recommended but government cuts remain an obstacle

The CPS is not delivering the same standard seen in rape and serious sexual offence cases as in fatal road traffic accidents (RTAs), the chief inspector for HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) has said.

Michael Fuller made the comments after a joint report made by the HMCPSI and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found common failings in the CPS in respect to RTAs, including poor case analysis and strategy, and inadequate references to sentencing guidelines.

The report also found the CPS’ decision-making could only be deemed ‘good’ in less than half of casesanalysed.

Fuller said that although the findings do convey a genuine desire on the part of prosecutors to deliver a specialist role and quality of service, the current structures in place do not make this possible.

“A set of eligibility criteria for the role, a structure to handle the caseload and a bespoke training package would all play an important part in giving this work the high priority it merits,” he said.

The report found there was no process to accredit specialists, national guidance was often ignored at operational level and monitoring of performance and casework outcomes was “fragmentary or non-existent”. It was also found that the overall standard of communication by the CPS with the bereaved family was poor in 75 per cent of cases.

The investigation follows on from a similar 2008 review, which recommended that a specialist prosecutor role in the CPS was still necessary and was reinforced by CPS headquarters.

Nevertheless a combination of merging areas within the CPS, significant staffing reductions and a falling caseload created challenges meeting that requirement, with little progress beening made towards a coherent model. The CPS is unable to report how many specialists work in this area.

The report also investigated the police’s role in RTAs, founding them to be professional and thorough, but neglecting to prioritise the valuable work of family liaison officers.