Chapter 2 – Working Together
"A multi-agency system, as we have in our criminal justice system, must be more than the sum of its parts. You know as well as I do that organisations must work as part of a bigger team. Individuals within each agency must be able to see the bigger picture."
Cathy Jamieson MSP, Minister for Justice, APEX Speech - September 2005
Partnership working has rightly been identified as an essential element of Scottish criminal justice reform. It reflects the imperative for all agencies within the system to have a greater appreciation of the role played by partner agencies and, perhaps more significantly, the impact upon these agencies through changes to their own processes or priorities. While there is clearly a need to sustain effective working relationships amongst all partners, the relationship between police forces and COPFS through the Area and District Procurators Fiscal is particularly crucial in terms of case management and bringing offenders to justice.
2.1 ACPOS Criminal Justice Business Area
Scotland's eight forces, together with the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency ( SDEA), have a key role in reporting offenders to COPFS. While each force enjoys effective bi-lateral relationships with local Area Procurators Fiscal, there is an identified need to develop strategies and policies at a national level. As with all other areas of policing in Scotland, this national role is filled by ACPOS. Although ACPOS has no legal authority to bind Chief Constables to any particular policy, the practice is for ACPOS to consult with forces and seek consensus in implementing national agreements.
Criminal justice accounts for a significant proportion police forces' core activity and covers the spectrum of operational policing, crime management, corporate planning and information technology. Until recently ACPOS has dealt with criminal justice across the range of Business Areas on an issue-by-issue basis. However, the emerging criminal justice reform agenda and key reviews intensified the need for a more co-ordinated approach within ACPOS. And so, in August 2005, it established a new Criminal Justice Business Area.
The ACPOS Criminal Justice Business Area provides a platform for Scottish police forces to respond to criminal justice reform and has the following remit:
- to develop an ACPOS Criminal Justice Strategy in order to fill statutory obligations, whilst recognising the importance of working within the wider criminal justice system
- to maximise the performance of the Scottish police forces in all aspects of the criminal justice system
- to engage in, and influence, the programme of criminal justice reform
- to do so in co-operation and collaboration with criminal justice partners.
The inspection team was impressed by the willingness and determination of the ACPOS Criminal Justice Business Area to address the key issues affecting case management. Of particular note is its commitment to improve the quality and timeliness of criminal justice processes, including police reports, statements, and correspondence. HMIC and IPS welcome the creation of the ACPOS Criminal Justice Business Area and believe that it has a significant role in developing sustainable strategies which will drive performance improvements in criminal justice across Scotland.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) is a single service with responsibility for the prosecution of crime in Scotland. It operates from the Crown Office, which provides national support for policy, management services and preparation of cases for the High Court and Court of Appeal. There are 11 geographical areas across Scotland, each led by an Area Procurator Fiscal. These areas match with the boundaries of the eight Scottish police forces, except for Strathclyde, where there are four Area Procurators Fiscal.
COPFS has a Management Board to determine national strategy and monitor national performance. The Board makes decisions on priorities and working practices. COPFS also has a Legal and Policy Forum which includes all Area Procurators Fiscal. Its primary task is to discuss and make decisions on prosecution policy and issues which have an impact on legal decision making. The management decisions of the Management Board will normally be reported to the Legal and Policy Forum on a regular basis. However, there might be some management issues on which the Management Board will seek wider agreement from the Legal and Policy Forum before further action is taken.
2.3 Bi-Lateral Relationships
While there has been a long tradition of police forces and Procurators Fiscal working together across Scotland, HMIC and IPS were particularly impressed by the strength of existing relationships. There was ample evidence of regular strategic meetings between chief officers and Area Procurators Fiscal, as well as tactical and operational meetings between local police commanders and District Procurators Fiscal. It was clear that close professional relationships exist between police and Procurators Fiscal across Scotland, with a shared understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities. Both services respect the need to maintain their independence and are aware of their constitutional boundaries. The inspection team was particularly encouraged by a change in dynamic between forces and Procurators Fiscal, which has developed into a productive and professional business partnership.
HMIC and IPS were encouraged by the effective bi-lateral relationships at national policy level between COPFS and ACPOS. A recent example of effective joint working was the shared response to the introduction of the disclosure of witness statements (Section 11.2), where a joint ACPOS/ COPFS conference was held with other stakeholders to identify key issues and agree relevant processes. The inspection team was also aware of a mutual desire to provide co-ordinated media responses to topical issues. This approach is helpful in demonstrating that both services are working together, and can only serve to increase public confidence in the criminal justice system.
The inspection team found that ACPOS and COPFS used bi-lateral relationships as the means of implementing the Joint Protocol and for driving improvements in case management at a force and area level.
For example, HMIC and IPS were impressed by the partnership working arrangements in Strathclyde which, because of its size, presents a number of complex management issues. The creation of a new post of Assistant Chief Constable (Criminal Justice and Territorial Policing) has led to greater co-ordination between the four Area Procurators Fiscal. Through the development of Strathclyde Area Liaison Meetings ( SALM), there has been a range of bi-lateral agreements covering productions, persistent offenders, reporting volumes and the use of abbreviated reports. On a more local level, formal meetings take place between Divisional Commanders and Area Procurators Fiscal, as do practitioner meetings involving Deputy Commanders, District Procurators Fiscal, Sub-Divisional Officers and Police Departmental Managers. These meetings address operational issues, including racist crime, case management, warrants, quality and submission of police reports and statements, citations and prisoner escorting.
2.4 Criminal Justice Boards
The Normand Report identified the need to establish a top level National Board of senior officials to oversee the operation and performance of the criminal justice system in Scotland and to develop a National Criminal Justice Strategic Plan. It also identified the requirement for an effective, coherent and consistent framework of co-ordination and liaison at local level, in the form of Local Criminal Justice Boards.
2.5 National Criminal Justice Board
The National Criminal Justice Board held its inaugural meeting in December 2003. It consists of senior representation from the Scottish Executive Justice Department, COPFS, ACPOS, Scottish Courts Service, Scottish Prison Service, Association of the Directors of Social Work, District Courts Association, Scottish Children's Reporter Authority, Scottish Legal Aid Board, Sheriffs Principal and representatives from the Scottish Executive Criminal Justice Group and Police and Community Safety Group.
The inspection team was aware of criminal justice partners' early frustration around the role and function of the National Board and the limited strategic direction provided to local boards. Initially the National Board appeared to lack a clear remit, while the focus of local boards lacked consistency. The inspection team acknowledges both the initial difficulties in establishing a National Board and the need to balance strategic direction and national priorities within a framework of shrieval independence and local flexibility. That said, both the National and Local Criminal Justice Boards have evolved and matured since 2003, and a full time secretariat is now in place to support the work of the former. Significant progress has been made in relation to its role and strategic direction. This has clarified the initial uncertainty and should start to provide a framework against which local boards can develop their local action plans.
The remit of the National Board is to make recommendations on the overall aims, objectives and targets for the criminal justice system and to monitor the performance of the system as a whole. In light of this, the National Board has agreed four "System Goals", which will help to guide the work of both the National and local boards. These goals are:
- for the public have confidence that the criminal justice system is accessible, effective and serves all communities fairly
- for victims and witnesses to receive a consistent, high standard of service from all criminal justice agencies
- for continuous improvement to be delivered through more efficient and effective processes
- to contribute to reducing re-offending by efficient case handling and robust enforcement of appropriate disposals.
These goals restate the major priorities set by the Scottish Executive Criminal Justice Strategy, and should become the primary mechanism by which criminal justice agencies deliver criminal justice reform. The National Board has approved a work plan to be taken forward by various "action teams", and identifies a number of priorities for the criminal justice system. The programme is such that it can only be achieved by joint working between criminal justice agencies. Individual Board members will sponsor and lead on identified areas of work and action teams consisting of representatives of the criminal justice agencies affected by the work will be formed. Six areas have been identified, namely Management Information, Warrants Review, Witnesses, System Improvement, Persistent and Prolific Offenders, and Sheriff and Jury Protocols.
By developing an overarching picture of summary justice, systems improvement aims to reduce the number of wasted and ineffective court diets. An action team will examine what may be done to come up with an end-to-end picture of summary justice. This will take cognisance of reforms to the summary justice system, summary legal aid and the Holland and Sinclair provisions (Section 11.2). It is envisaged that local criminal justice boards will provide a forum through which summary justice reforms may be implemented.
2.6 Local Criminal Justice Boards
There are currently eleven local criminal justice boards across Scotland, which correspond to the same local boundaries as the Area Procurators Fiscal. The inspection team found that some boards are more active than others and that most are still at the early stages of development. The range of activities undertaken by the local boards varies considerably and, in the absence of early national direction, they have developed differently.
The inspection team was impressed by the approach taken by the Highlands and Islands Board, which was established in March 2003. It is chaired by the Sheriff Principal and consists of the Area Procurator Fiscal, the Chief Constable, the Head of Police Operations, the Procurator Fiscal Area Manager and the assistant Area Director of the Scottish Court Service. Strong working relationships exist and a number of local concerns have been addressed by establishing working groups and drawing up action plans. This includes time spent by officers at court, early disposal of productions, antisocial behaviour and persistent offenders. The Board has introduced joint targets for case disposal (Section 3.4). This had enabled Northern Constabulary to introduce measures to improve report submission times and the quality of police reports and statements. One of the main benefits emerging from the formation of the local board is each agency's extended understanding in relation to individual processes and issues. The strategic approach adopted by the Highlands and Islands Board is viewed as good practice, in terms of the Normand Report.
The Grampian Criminal Justice Board has been effective in establishing a pilot project to improve processes across the summary justice system. Known as "Cleanstream", it aims to improve performance by decreasing the length of time from incident to court disposal and by increasing capacity within the system by eliminating waste. Cleanstream demonstrates Grampian Board's significant commitment to improve end-to-end processes, and is in line with the recommendations contained in the Normand and McInnes Reports. The Lothian and Borders Board has started up a similar project in West Lothian. The inspection team took the opportunity to visit both projects and has made comment on specific aspects throughout this report. Both projects will be subject to independent evaluation, which will undoubtedly inform other boards of the benefits of this approach.
Initially it was envisaged that the core of the local boards would be the Sheriff Principal, Chief Constable, Area Procurator Fiscal, Assistant Director of Scottish Court Service, a representative from the Scottish Prison Service and a representative of the Criminal Justice Social Work. In practice there is some regional variation, with key individuals from other organisations such as the SCRA, Reliance Custodial Services and Witness Services being invited to local board meetings. Some local boards have a more limited membership. HMIC and IPS believe that these would benefit from extending membership to include representatives from other criminal justice partners.
There was a consistent view amongst police and Procurators Fiscal that the National Board should offer a greater degree of strategic guidance to local boards, in terms of their functioning. In respect of this, it is believed that the recently developed system goals and work plan of the National Board will provide a framework for local boards, whose work will be crucial to delivering the national goals. The priorities for local boards include:
- closer collaboration on target setting, business planning and performance monitoring
- increasing the quality of police reports and alternatives to reporting
- testing the process for intermediate and trial diets to determine if it is as efficient and effective as it could be
- exploring the potential use of technology in new and imaginative ways
- continuing to monitor the local warrants process.
It is recognised that local boards must be able to take action that will lead to improvements in their own areas. That said, the National Board believes there is room to improve the links between the centre and local boards, and proposes to introduce the following in the near future:
- a newsletter to improve communication with local boards
- the provision of a package of management information to local boards
- a networking event for local boards
- a work plan framed by local boards but within the context of the National Board's goals
- the National Board's Secretariat to make recommendations to local boards on particular areas of importance.
HMIC and IPS acknowledge the recent efforts by the National Board in terms of setting the strategic direction nationally and locally. It is believed that this will provide the foundation for greater information sharing and increased understanding amongst local criminal justice agencies. Local criminal justice boards should provide a forum to agree actions for improvement to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the local system.
2.7 English and Welsh Approach to Criminal Justice Boards
The National Criminal Justice Board for England and Wales is responsible for supporting 42 local boards in implementing Criminal Justice System Public Service Agreements to narrow the justice gap and improve public confidence. A Criminal Justice System Strategic Plan has been created for 2005/06 and targets set for each local board. The performance of local criminal justice boards is monitored and published by the National Board.
The inspection team took the opportunity to observe an inspection of the Manchester Criminal Justice Board and made some comparisons with the approach to Criminal Justice Boards in Scotland. The Manchester Board comprises representatives from the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, Courts, Probation Service, Prisons and Youth Offender Teams. On occasions, associate members may be included (e.g. Victim Support and Witness Services). The Manchester Criminal Justice Board has a service delivery plan which is progressed by a support team and performance group. The delivery plan has delivery groups relative to diversity, confidence, case management, enforcement, victims and witnesses, information technology and prosecution. The support team and performance groups co-ordinate performance reporting between the local criminal justice groups and the criminal justice board.
The inspection process is well established, with joint inspections conducted by one lead agency with contributions from Inspectorates of the other criminal justice agencies represented on the board. The thematic inspection of Manchester Criminal Justice Board was conducted along three themes: Inspecting Outcomes in Criminal Justice Areas; Bringing Offenders to Justice; and Reducing Ineffective Trials.
The inspection team recognises that the English and Welsh Criminal Justice Boards are at a more advanced stage of maturity than those operating in Scotland, with a priority on delivering national strategy and driving performance across all criminal justice agencies. HMIC and IPS anticipate that the Scottish boards will develop along similar lines and have the potential to emerge as a primary vehicle to deliver, monitor and publicly report on criminal justice reform.
2.8 Youth Justice
There are strong parallels within youth justice. In considering ways of improving the effectiveness of youth justice, priority has been given to minimising delays in the end-to-end process of the Children's Hearing system, maximising inter-agency co-operation and providing facilities that meet service user needs. Under the direction and guidance of a National Youth Justice Strategy Group, a framework of national objectives and inter-agency standards entitled " The Time Interval Standards" was introduced to improve the effectiveness of the Hearing system. The overarching aim is to reduce the number of persistent young offenders by 10% from the baseline year 2003/2004 to the target year 2005/2006. This was to be realised through a management structure reflecting both local and national service delivery.
The inspection team endorses the principles adopted by youth justice agencies in providing an inter-agency structure that underpins overarching aims and objectives and acknowledges the need to improve performance and co-operation throughout the end-to-end youth justice process. HMIC and IPS acknowledge the development of strong inter-agency relationships between police and youth justice partners. They are also pleased to note the clear indication of regular strategic meetings between chief police officers and Children's Reporters, as well as regular operational meetings between local police representatives and Children's Reporters, to discuss and deal with issues within the management framework of youth justice.
2.9 Community Justice Authorities
As part of the Scottish Executive criminal justice reforms, eight new Community Justice Authorities ( CJA) will be established across Scotland. They will be responsible for distributing funding for criminal justice social work and for monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of joint working between local agencies to tackle re-offending. Membership of the new authorities will be drawn from local authority partners, bringing individual councils together for the purposes of:
- developing a strategic plan for the management of offenders in liaison with the Scottish Prison Service and other partners
- receiving and distributing amongst local authorities funds provided by Ministers for Criminal Justice Social Work
- promoting and sharing good practice
- monitoring and reporting on local authority performance
- if necessary intervening to ensure the local authority elements of the area plan are delivered
- carrying out wider monitoring and reporting functions on other partners, including the Scottish Prison Service.
Each new authority will have statutory partner bodies that will be consulted on the strategic plan, annual reports and area performance. Partner bodies will also be expected to be brought within the information-sharing framework within each area. This will include those public bodies which deal directly with offenders, ex-offenders and victims and those voluntary bodies in receipt of public funds for this purpose. Police forces and COPFS will be included as statutory partners. A wider range of organisations, not partner bodies, will be included in guidance to the CJA. These bodies include community planning partnerships, community safety partnerships, community health partnerships, and child protection committees and youth justice services.
HMIC and IPS acknowledge the important role of police forces and COPFS as partner bodies, but are unclear as to the linkages between the new authorities and the National and Local Criminal Justice Boards and the Youth Justice Strategy Group. There may also be some practical issues in relation to the geographic distribution of these new authorities, which are not coterminous with either police or COPFS boundaries. However, with the emphasis on reducing re-offending, it is likely that the work of the new authorities will have some considerable overlap with the work of local criminal justice boards, through fast tracking offenders through the courts and other initiatives.
2.10 Integration of Scottish Criminal Justice Information Systems ( ISCJIS)
The Integration of Scottish Criminal Justice Information Systems ( ISCJIS) is a programme of work which began in 1996. Its purpose is to integrate technologies used by criminal justice partners to enable more effective case management. ISCJIS has since emerged as the only forum where all members of the Criminal Justice Community meet on a regular basis to discuss information technology or data sharing. ISCJIS has been successful in establishing the "Primary Loop", which connects the key criminal justice partners and enables data sharing. This has been particularly relevant for ACPOS and COPFS, with all forces routinely transferring police reports and other information electronically to Procurators Fiscal.
ISCJIS is driven through a Programme Board on which key criminal justice partners, including ACPOS and COPFS, are represented. A working group exists to address routine implementation issues on behalf of the Programme Board, while various of sub groups have been set up to address specific technical and specialist areas. The Programme Board was previously overseen by a Steering Committee, but this has recently been replaced by the National Criminal Justice Board. The inspection team views this as a positive change that should allow ISCJIS to take forward the information technology aspects of the emerging National Criminal Justice Board Strategy.
The inspection team notes that ACPOS has reviewed its representation on the ISCJIS Programme Board. The previous technical focus provided by the ACPOS Information Management Business Area, has now been replaced with a greater business focus provided by the ACPOS Criminal Justice Business Area. HMIC and IPS view this as a positive change that will ensure ACPOS is better placed to assess the strategic and operational impact of ISCJIS developments.