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Almost all forces can now share digital evidence with the CPS


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Significant increase in technology capability and sharing since start of lockdown but court system struggling badly to cope with increase in prosecution case work.


Date - 2nd July 2020
By - Gary Mason

The number of forces who can upload multi-media digital evidence on a platform shared with the CPS has increased from about 20 to 39 since the start of the pandemic.

Before the lockdown around half of forces in England and Wales were still sending hard copy discs of CCTV footage, 999 calls, body worn video and video-recorded victim interviews to CPS administrative staff.

Work with some forces to upgrade to a digital shared platform had not progressed for a variety of reasons.

But a CPS inspectorate report has found that a new ‘can do’ attitude among forces has moved on projects that had been taking years to being completed in just a few weeks.

The inspectorate report covers the 10 weeks from 16 March to 8 May.

Since July 2018, the CPS has been working with police forces to share multimedia evidence on a digital platform.

In February 2020, before lockdown, about half of the 43 police forces were using a digital platform to share evidence.

However, the urgent need to find alternative ways to share information within the current restrictions and social distancing resulted in a much more collaborative relationship.

There are now 39 police forces who can upload digitally and this has significantly reduced the transmission of digital material on disc, which promotes greater data security as well as making the digital material easier to review, the inspectorate found.

It added: “Staff in Areas said that lockdown has been a catalyst for change. The need to think differently, and to be able to continue to deliver casework within the restrictions imposed, has meant that partners are willing to focus attention and there has been a real ‘can do’ attitude. A number remarked that what they have been trying to achieve for one or two years has moved on in weeks under the impetus the pandemic has provided.”

But the inspectorate report noted that the increased productivity achieved by police forces and the CPS was not being matched in the court system resulting in a growing backlog of cases.

The inspectorate noted: “In one Area we visited, there was some evidence that, like the CPS, the police had taken the opportunity to reallocate resources that had been freed up to catch up with outstanding matters.”

In one Area there had been an increase in the level of work received by the local force for pre-charge advice. In another there had been a large increase in the number of warrants executed. This had the impact of bringing more cases in the system as defendants were arrested and brought into court in custody.

The report warns: “Proactive action by the police will lead to an inevitable increase in cases and this will add to the developing backlog.”

What was a reduced level of reported crime at the outset of lockdown has more recently returned to more normal levels. For example, on 8 May the weekly total of prosecution receipts was 12% down on pre-lockdown averages, but by the week ending 15 May the level was just 0.5% less than the average.

There is a rapidly increasing difference between case receipts and cases being finalised. In the magistrates’ courts, live case numbers have increased by 35,000, and this has continued to increase every week following the period covered by the inspectorate report.

The backlog in the Crown Court has increased by more than 1,700 cases in ten weeks.

It is estimated that trial backlogs in the magistrates’ courts have increased by 32% between the beginning of March and early May, from 12,100 to 16,000. In the Crown Court the estimated increase is 43% (from 17,400 to 24,900).

The report warns: “As the growing rate of trial backlogs shows, the challenge of recovery cannot be underestimated. Without some innovative thinking and solutions, the challenge of addressing the backlog is likely to be much more complex than dealing with the immediate crisis.”

The initial system-wide recovery phase is being overseen by the Criminal Justice System Strategic Command (CJSSC).

Nationally, the CPS has worked with the police to develop revised charging arrangements and to increase uploads of digital material.

At a more local level changes have happened either at extraordinary Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB) meetings or local subgroups of the LCJB formed to tackle the crisis.

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I'll bet that the OIC still ends up running around burning off copies of discs last minute because the CPS are unable to get the info to court / their own barrister / etc.

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4 hours ago, Indiana Jones said:

I'll bet that the OIC still ends up running around burning off copies of discs last minute because the CPS are unable to get the info to court / their own barrister / etc.

It's a little frustrating having to upload digital images to the online portals. Realistically I don't find the whole electronic process any easier to how it once was, the file building process has been slowed down significantly in my experience but that has been true for the past five years or so. 

For the cases I've got going through the court at the minute I'm still taking my composite copies with me "just in case" the CPS/court cannot play them from the server. 

CPS have recently begun requesting more and more on case files, a colleague of mine with a nasty sexual assault case is literally jumping through new hoops everytime he sends an updated MG20 off, the cynic in me is suggesting the CPS want to ultimately NFA the case but to his credit the cop keeps what's been asked of him... 

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