The Crown Prosecution Service is the primary prosecuting authority in England and Wales, acting independently in criminal cases investigated by the police. The Director of Public Prosecutions is the most senior public prosecutor in England and Wales and is head of the CPS.

Meeting Date: 16 January 2017

Matters Discussed:

Results of the Speaking to Witnesses at Court Survey

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) updated the Victims’ Commissioner (VC) on the roll-out of new processes, which required Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Advocates to meet with victims and witnesses before the trial to explain the court process. Following the commencement, the CPS undertook a survey of victims and witnesses at court to see how the new processes were being received. The survey shows witness and victim satisfaction with information and support provided by CPS members of staff at court is at 95 per cent. The VC was pleased that the new processes were in place. She noted the finding from the survey and commented that this was a great result and something that the CPS should be very proud of.

Handling of Honour Based Violence (HBV) and Forced Marriage (FM) Cases

The VC raised concern over the handling of these cases and the proportion of complaints that resulted in prosecution. The DPP explained the work that the CPS were doing in respect of these crimes. In December 2016, the CPS and police published the first ever joint honour based violence and forced marriage protocol. The protocol outlines a mutual commitment to prosecuting these crimes and how important it is to work closely together to build the strongest possible cases and increase public confidence. The CPS were also consulting closely with charities and third sector groups who supported victims of these crimes. The DPP emphasised the importance many potential victims placed on the use of Forced Marriage Protection Orders.

Section 41 Applications in Rape Trials

The VC expressed concern about victims of rape being cross-examined about their previous sexual history when in the witness box, as she is very aware of how much distress it causes to victims. She asked whether the CPS were monitoring the number of applications being made by defence counsel under s.41 (these applications give defence counsel permission to pursue this line of questioning, where agreed by the court). The DPP assured the VC that the number of applications was being monitored and that the CPS is responding to such applications robustly and in accordance with the principles of the provision.

Hate Crime Consultation

The VC referred to the increase in hate crimes in recent years. The DPP stated that by publicly consulting on the Hate Crime Public Policy Statements, the CPS ensures its policies are open and transparent, by inviting and analysing feedback and contributions from interested parties. The consultations are intended to increase public confidence in the CPS’s approach to prosecuting hate crimes by demonstrating their understanding of both general and strand-specific issues which can impact victims’ access to the criminal justice system.

Victims’ Commissioner’s Review

The VC plans to review the capture of victim satisfaction and how this information is used to improve support for victims. The DPP was keen to assist the VC with this review.

Victims’ Commissioner’s Decency Pledge

The VC is also planning a “victim awareness campaign” across all criminal justice agencies, increasing the awareness of staff of the needs of victims and encouraging them to view the system through the eyes of victims. The campaign would need input from all agencies. The DPP confirmed that the CPS would offer its full support to this campaign as she recognised its importance.