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'Inaccessible' prosecutors working from home causing frustration

DPP Stephen Parkinson believes communication between the CPS and policing is improving, pointing to the frequency of early conversations around advice and case surgeries.

CPS lawyers have sent police officers in Greater Manchester as many as nine action plans for cases that should be "fairly simple", according to the force's chief constable, who believes it's a by-product of the inefficiencies caused by increased home working.

Efficient working between the police and CPS was central to a discussion with the new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) at the NPCC/APCC summit on Thursday.

Pointing to what he has seen within his own force, CC Stephen Watson asked the recently-appointed Stephen Parkinson how he plans to better this working relationship.

“I suspect we’ve a lot of prosecutors, working from home, on laptops, who are inaccessible. As a result, what we end up with is frustration, sub-optimal processes, demand shifting between systems, whereby sometimes for people to make sense of their workload they create an action plan which they send back to police officers...

"I know that on occasion some of my people have had as many as nine action plans around something that should be a fairly simply construct."

Mr Parkinson said the police and CPS need to get together to "work through these things”, but added: “Of course I understand the frustration around getting nine bits of paper where the feeling is we could’ve dealt with this much more quickly."

The new DPP was also asked to comment on an example, offered by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper earlier on Thursday, of a CPS prosecutor who hasn't spoken to a police officer in person for three years.

“I heard that this morning and of course, I was as disappointed as you are – that’s not the way things should be."

Mr Parkinson does believe things are getting better. "Lots of you will know about the national charging model that's rolling out, and alongside that, better communication is happening. Early conversations around advice...post charge conferences are happening, surgeries are happening. 

“There is a practical issue around this, it’s a pragmatic thing…it’s around shift patterns, and the fact that police officers are often away from their desk, and I know this as a prosecutor but also as a defence lawyer. And often when I was defending it would be email exchanges with a police officer, but we do have the technology which enables us to have those face-to-face conversations when we can."

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