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CPS Response to HMCPSI Inspection of the effectiveness of Crown Prosecution Service policy and guidance for the handling of cases involving the National Referral Mechanism


His Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) has today issued a report following their inspection of the effectiveness of Crown Prosecution Service policy and guidance for the handling of cases involving the National Referral Mechanism.

We acknowledge the work of the HMCPSI in reviewing and reporting on the effectiveness of two CPS policy guidance documents which are linked. 

Overall, the Inspectorate found our guidance to be effective and extensive. The report also commended the ongoing commitment by the CPS Strategy and Policy Directorate and Directorate of Legal Services Team, to proactively ensure the development of national policy and on-going revision to reflect changes, as a result of changing case law and legislation. It acknowledges the CPS’ commitment to ensuring Areas are kept up to date with the latest developments in county lines and modern slavery. There is also recognition of our close working relationships with Criminal Justice System colleagues to ensure our policies are aligned and complement each other, with a commitment to improve processes where possible. 

We welcome the findings and note that there are some aspects of our guidance and policy that could be enhanced by further practical advice to better support prosecutors to make effective decisions in cases, particularly at pre-charge stage.  We are supportive of the recommendations made and will give thorough consideration to the best way of implementing them.

Inspectorate's Recommendations / Issues to address

There are four recommendations to address which relate solely to the CPS. The CPS provides its responses below and will consider the best way to implement recommendations 3 and 4:

Recommendation 1: By 30 September 2023, the CPS should remove any outdated and inaccurate content from the internal CPS hub.

CPS Response: Recommendation accepted; we acknowledge that some of our internal operational guidance referred to training material that was correct at the time but has since become out of date. The primary source of guidance at all times was the prosecution guidance, which was up to date, but in order to avoid any confusion we have removed the older training material with effect from 4 June 2023. 

Recommendation 2: By 31 October 2023, the CPS should include a link to the guidance on the section 45 defence and the non-punishment principles in the Children as suspects guidance, thereby ensuring that operational support is available across all casework types.

CPS Response: Recommendation accepted. We had already identified this improvement prior to the inspection and are pleased to confirm that our updated youth guidance contains the link. Our guidance on Children as Suspects and Defendants (no longer known as the Youth guidance) was published on 17 May 2023. 

Recommendation 3: By 31 December 2023 the CPS to revise, restructure and retitle the current guidance to make it more accessible to volume crime units.

CPS Response: We support this recommendation and will give the section 45 defence greater prominence in our guidance and restructure guidance to make it easier to access for prosecutors.  

Recommendation 4: By 31 December 2023, the CPS to develop a system of assurance that can prove that CPS Areas are taking a consistent approach in the prosecution of cases involving the section 45 defence and the application of the non-punishment principles.

CPS Response: We will ensure that a consistency setting exercise will be undertaken with area modern slavery leads as an assurance that Areas are taking a consistent approach in cases where the section 45 defence and other non-punishment principles are raised. This will provide the assurance recommended by HMCPSI.

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