A victims’ strategic needs assessment for the Crown Prosecution Service

Report authors: Sam Cunningham, Executive Director | Callyane Desroches, Head of Policy & Strategy

Monday 27 June 2022


REPORT (PDF): A victims’ strategic needs assessment for the Crown Prosecution Service
 
In June 2021, Crest Advisory was commissioned by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to explore what support victims want and need in their journey through the criminal justice system (CJS).

Our research found victims’ needs increase according to how vulnerable they are and the severity of the crime. It concludes that there should be an enhanced service for specific vulnerable groups, such as victims of serious violence, hate crime or sexual offences



After the research was published, the CPS said transforming the support offered to victims of crime to stay more engaged is key.


The report found four priority areas where improvements can be made for victims. Based on these findings, the CPS says it will:

  • Improve the quality of communications for all victims, working with partners across the criminal justice system to develop a different model

  • Enhance the service provided to victims with the greatest needs

  • Innovate and pilot new ways to strengthen engagement with victims

  • Build an organisational and leadership culture that prioritises engagement with victims

The CPS is also setting out an action plan and time-frames to deliver improvements.


The report will inform next steps for the CPS, including:

  • Earlier engagement with victims of rape and serious sexual assault by piloting earlier communication at a pre-charge stage, acknowledging the need for more direct and proactive contact from the CPS

  • A new communications guide so staff can build on their skills and improve the language, frequency and timeliness of our communication with victims and witnesses

  • Publishing a refreshed information guide for victims of rape and serious sexual offences to ensure victims are getting the right information at the right time. A guide will also be available for victims of other crime types later this year

  • An updated toolkit for writing to rape victims to ensure prosecutors properly explain the role of the CPS and give victims the information they need



Crest Advisory Executive Director Sam Cunningham, who led the research, said:


“Victims want a voice and victims deserve agency. Victims of crime subjected to trauma do not want an impersonal letter that reduces them to a case number. Our research is a powerful evidence base on which the CPS can build to make meaningful change.
“The CPS have worked with us every step of the way and what this piece of independent research shows us is that there is a genuine desire and positive context for change. Although the findings are stark, this report is anchored in a real ambition for change from the leadership at the CPS.”
“It has never been more important to put the victims’ voice at the front, left and centre of a complete shift in approach. We look forward to working with the CPS and stakeholders across the criminal justice system and to seeing the recommendations gain momentum.”

Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said:


“Being a victim of crime can be one of the most challenging things a person will ever experience – we recognise how overwhelming the justice process can be, especially when already in a time of extraordinary stress.
“We do not underestimate the enormity of this experience and know the resilience many victims show as they navigate the complex route of their case.
“But many need better support and that is why we’re taking a comprehensive look at what we offer to make sure we are meeting those needs.
“We are making progress – but are focused on making sure victims get the consistent and compassionate service they deserve.”

Claire Waxman, London’s Independent Victims’ Commissioner, said:


“This work from Crest Advisory provides fantastic insight into the needs of victims and most crucially where these needs remain unmet by the CPS. Consistent, clear and trauma-informed communication with victims is a fundamental element of their justice journey, and the absence of this can push victims to withdraw from the process, particularly with cases taking such a long time to reach court.
“We know that victims do not all receive the justice outcome they want, but a greater driver of satisfaction is that they are treated with respect, receive timely and effective communications, and have their rights met. The CPS play a crucial role in a victim’s journey, and I am confident that if they implement the recommendations set out by Crest we will see a marked improvement in satisfaction and better engagement with the justice system.”

Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said:


"The criminal justice process can be a difficult and challenging experience for victims. Independent research helps to provide evidence that allows all parts of the system to play their role in the most effective way possible and ensure that victims get the service that they deserve"
 

The assessment was commissioned in response to a report in October 2020 from HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, which examined the CPS Victim and Communication Liaison Scheme: Letters to Victims.


The information in the Crest report is a snapshot of CPS demand and the experiences of victims at the time.


Crest worked collaboratively with the CPS on the research.


The methods used included: quantitative analysis of publicly available and specialised service data; consultation of practitioners both statutory and third sector; and the consultation of victims.

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