Chapter 3 – Target Setting
"Performance management is therefore a process, not an event, which operates as part of a continuous planning cycle. It does not work in isolation, but rather in a holistic fashion, pervading every aspect of the organisation (or process). The aim should be to create a culture where high standards and quality of service are part of every day life."
"Managing Improvement" A Thematic Inspection of Performance Management in the Scottish Police service - HMIC (2005)
Performance management is a crucial tool for delivering continuous improvement within organisations. HMIC recently completed a Thematic Inspection of Performance Management in the Scottish police service10. One of the issues identified from this thematic was that performance cannot take place in isolation, but must be linked to the overall strategy and priorities of the organisation. Otherwise the proposition that 'what gets measured gets done' becomes counter productive, where inappropriate measurement systems or indicators can have adverse consequences for management and those to whom the service is provided.
When examining the issue of target setting and performance within the criminal justice process, the inspection team suggests that great care be taken to ensure that targets are positioned within the wider context of performance management. They should not be considered in isolation or in preference to other policing or COPFS priorities. Failure to acknowledge these wider aspects may result in conflicts in performance or in excessive bureaucratic processes being placed on organisations which may hinder or skew the service delivery. HMIC and IPS believe that targets should be considered within the wider context of end-to-end performance across the criminal justice system and acknowledge the comments made by the Normand and McInnes reports in this regard. Whilst current criminal justice targets express a specific level of performance that forces and COPFS are seeking to achieve unilaterally, there is a need to develop targets which deliver a joined up criminal justice process that is both efficient and effective and will realise identified benefits. The issue of end-to-end performance is discussed later within this section.
3.1 Driving Performance
The inspection confirmed the increased profile of criminal justice within forces, while arrangements for reporting cases to Procurators Fiscal has become a priority. Though not all forces have a formal strategy for case management, the inspection team found that most included criminal justice improvements in their business planning and monitor delivery of these as part of their performance management regime. The inspection team acknowledges that some forces had produced detailed action plans, in partnership with Procurators Fiscal, to implement the ACPOS/ COPFS Joint Protocol. Those developed within Fife and Tayside were seen to represent good practice.
HMIC and IPS were aware that having identified criminal justice as a priority business area, a number of forces have created new criminal justice departments of varying structures and size. These departments are at early stages of development and it was encouraging to note that some forces had consulted widely in terms of developing a remit and sharing good practice. HMIC and IPS accept that this may not be suitable for all forces. However, there are benefits in streamlining functions which support case management into a single structure, and having in place a senior manager who is accountable to the force executive for performance and delivering continuous improvement across the area. Given the impetus shown by ACPOS to co-ordinate criminal justice through a new business area, there are also advantages for forces in appointing a senior manager to lead on criminal justice and implement nationally agreed policies at a force level.
A notable piece of work identified during the inspection was the Force Criminal Justice Plan by Strathclyde Police. This is being led by the Assistant Chief Constable (Criminal Justice and Territorial Policing) and aims to develop a shared understanding of national and local criminal justice agenda. The detailed structure reflects the scale and diversity of the force and a flow chart outlining the partnership arrangements and internal roles is shown below.
Figure 1 - Strathclyde Police - Criminal Justice Partnership Arrangements
The inspection team was encouraged by the responsibility given to Strathclyde Police Deputy Divisional Commanders to drive performance and be accountable for achieving targets. This accountability is mirrored in many forces, including Tayside Police and Northern Constabulary where performance is owned by local Divisional Commanders and the Head of Operations within their respective forces.
Performance in COPFS is driven primarily by the management board, which consists of the senior managers in the service. Its remit is to ensure that the service is organised and managed in the most effective way, and to provide visible and accountable leadership to staff - setting the strategic direction for the organisation, monitoring and stimulating its performance and managing its people and resources to best effect. At Area level performance is driven by the Area Procurator Fiscal who is responsible for ensuring that District Procurators Fiscal within the area meet the targets set nationally by the Management Board.
3.2 Reporting Offenders
One of the key objectives of the Scottish Executive criminal justice reforms is to bring offenders to justice more quickly. Case management describes the various processes used by police forces to report offenders to COPFS and the subsequent processes by COPFS in deciding on prosecution. Clearly, any improvements in the time taken by police forces to report offenders to COPFS has the potential to bring offenders to justice more quickly.
During 2003, there was concern about the increasing number of cases marked by Procurators Fiscal for "no proceedings", due to police delay in submitting reports. The number of such cases in that year was exceptional, attracting political and media interest. However late reporting had, for some time, been the subject of concern.
The ACPOS and COPFS Working Group formed in 2003 (Section 1.8) considered the issue of late submission of police reports. Information was gathered on the performance of various police forces in their compliance with a previously accepted target of 28 days from caution and charge to submission of the report to the Procurator Fiscal. It became apparent that, although some forces could readily produce information, others used stand-alone databases and produced information on an ad hoc basis. The Working Group accepted that the 28 day target should be retained on the basis that it had been agreed historically by forces, and that the public was entitled to expect cases to be progressed in such a timescale. In light of increasing numbers of custody cases, "fast track" options and the increased use of non-reporting options, achieving the target was considered more likely in future.
The Working Group accepted that achieving the target would be challenging for some forces, and that milestones for improvement might be needed as a staged process towards achieving the target. This was included within the resulting ACPOS/ COPFS Protocol through the following:
- The period of 28 days from caution and charge, or conclusion of fixed penalty process, to submission of a Police Report to the Procurator Fiscal should be affirmed as the aspirational target for the majority of reports, set at 80%. - [ ACPOS/ COPFS - Rec. 1]
- Milestones for improvement towards the target of 80% should be set between Area Procurators Fiscal (who have responsibility for the performance against COPFS targets within their Area) and Chief Constables, based on historical data, to take account of local conditions, current volume of reports and existing backlogs - [ ACPOS/ COPFS - Rec. 2]
- Further development work on differential targets should be taken on by the Performance Indicators Working Group on which both ACPOS and COPFS are represented - [ ACPOS/ COPFS - Rec. 3]
- The provision of appropriate management information that can be routinely shared with criminal justice partners, to assist with monitoring of target compliance, should be considered by the ISCJIS Project Board - [ ACPOS/ COPFS - Rec. 4].
Taking into account the recommendations made in the ACPOS/ COPFS Protocol, in 2004 Audit Scotland introduced a new Statutory Performance Indicator ( SPI) relating to submitting Standard Police Reports to the Procurator Fiscal. A further SPI was established for submitting standard police reports to the Children's Reporter. This is commented upon in this Section 3.1 of this report. The inspection team notes that these SPIs are reported in isolation of the wider performance of other criminal justice partners, and make no links to actual outcomes or reducing offending behaviour.
While ACPOS has accepted that the existing 28 day target is achievable, the inspection team identified some concern over its validity. Some forces believed that it was not the best measure of performance, did not accurately reflect the practice of reporting cases, nor did it increase quality. Evidence was provided showing that in certain circumstances cases were reported within considerably shorter timescales, whereas some cases requiring extended investigation could only be reported "as soon as possible". One force felt the SPI to be limiting, as it did not encompass the entire criminal justice process. For example, it failed to recognise delays by other criminal justice partners after submission of the police report.
Figure 2 - Force Performance against 28-day target for submission of police reports
Published Data from Audit Scotland
The above chart highlights the finding that Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary was the only force to achieve the target in 2004/05. While all forces are committed to achieving the 28-day target, and have made significant progress towards achieving it, the inspection team recognises that a number of forces still fall considerably short. It was evident that each force is identifying how timeliness of reporting can be improved, what measures can be introduced to collect management information and how processes can be improved. The inspection team was also made aware of "fast track" initiatives which reduced the time taken to report cases, including the West Lothian and Grampian "Cleanstream" projects and the Hamilton and Airdrie Youth courts. These are discussed later within this report (Section 3.6).
Although the published data for 2005/06 were not available at the time of the inspection, the inspection team was encouraged by evidence of marked performance improvements in most forces. HMIC has introduced internal processes to monitor routinely the performance of all forces in relation to the 28-day target and will consider this as part of all future primary and review inspections of forces.
3.3 Milestones for Improvement
The ACPOS/ COPFS Joint Protocol recommended that forces set incremental milestones for achieving the 28-day target. The inspection team reviewed the use of incremental milestones within Fife Constabulary. Here the force set a target to submit 70% of all reports to the Procurator Fiscal within 28 days by April 2005, and to improve this to 75% of all reports by October 2005. The actual performance of the force during 2004/05 was 70.3%, and from April 2005 to December 2005, 76.5%. This achievement was driven by the force executive's commitment to scrutinise performance and make police commanders accountable.
The inspection team believes that forces could make greater use of incremental milestones in providing a focus for improvement and should plan incremental improvements which are achievable and set against current performance. Incremental milestones are a useful means of managing improvement and achieving the 28-day target. The range of current performance by forces in achieving the 80% submission target suggests that some forces face greater challenges than others and will take longer to reach compliance. HMIC and IPS recommend that forces who are not already compliant assess their current performance in consultation with Procurators Fiscal and identify achievable incremental milestones. This should include a realistic milestone for when they expect to meet the target of 80% within 28 days.
Recommendation 2 - that police forces not already compliant, assess their current performance in consultation with Procurators Fiscal and identify achievable incremental milestones for submitting police reports to the Procurator Fiscal within 28 days. This should include a realistic milestone for when they expect to meet the target of 80% within 28 days.
3.4 End-to-End Performance
Whilst police forces are subject to Statutory Performance Indicators ( SPIs) in relation to the submitting police reports to the Procurator Fiscal, there are a number of non-statutory performance indicators which monitor key processes by COPFS and other criminal justice partners in bringing offenders to justice.
COPFS operates a target in relation to the time taken by Procurators Fiscal to take and implement a decision to prosecute. This target impacts directly on the time taken to bring offenders to justice, although in keeping with the SPI for police reports it takes no cognisance of quality. COPFS introduced this indicator in April 2003, through the following series of incremental milestones:
- Milestone 1 - April 2003 - March 2004 - Target 80% in 7 weeks
- Milestone 2 - April 2004 - March 2005 - Target 75% in 6 weeks
- Milestone 3 - April 2005 - March 2006 - Target 75% in 5 weeks
The following charts show the performance of the 11 Area Procurators Fiscal against these incremental milestones:
Figure 3 - Procurators Fiscal Performance against Take and Implement Decision Target
Published Data from COPFS
HMIC and IPS were encouraged by the continuous improvement shown since the introduction of this target, and acknowledge that the most recent data indicate performance which is well in excess of the 75% target within five weeks. This improvement has been driven centrally by COPFS and locally by Area Procurators Fiscal, and demonstrates the value of setting incremental milestones for improvement.
Although falling outwith the scope of this inspection, HMIC and IPS learned of COPFS targets in relation to citing 75% of offenders to appear in court within three weeks of a decision to prosecute. There is an SCS target to dispose of 85% of cases within 20 weeks. When combined with the SPI for submitting police reports and the COPFS target to take and implement a decision to prosecute, these targets usefully track the joint end-to-end performance of all three agencies in bringing offenders to justice.
Figure 4 - Schematic showing End-to-End Targets in Bringing Offenders to Justice
The inspection team acknowledges the recommendations of the Normand and McInnes reports which call for a more effective, efficient and joined up operation of the criminal justice system in securing delivery of criminal justice priorities. It found clear evidence of joined up working between Procurators Fiscal and forces in local areas where the "lifespan" of a case, from offence to disposal, was being actively considered and managed within a framework which supports end-to-end performance.
The inspection team was encouraged by the approach taken by the Highlands & Islands Criminal Justice Board to develop joint targets and performance indicators. The agreed suite of indicators adds value to the current SPI target submission time by providing qualitative measures on performance. The Board completed a sampling exercise to inform target setting and has successfully applied incremental milestones to submission times for police reports. The inspection found that the approach recognises end-to-end service delivery through agreed practices, targets and protocols. Furthermore, it seeks to improve all aspects of a collective process, rather than developing a series of individual processes operating in isolation and without due regard for the impact on others.
Highlands & Islands Local Criminal Justice Board Targets
The inspection team considered the approach adopted by Highlands & Islands Local Criminal Justice Board to develop joint targets, which involved:
The Board has determined a wide range of agreed indicators for improvement throughout the end-to-end process. These include:
It also agreed indicators to improve the public perception of the criminal justice process:
In addition, the collective targets set for the Board are as follows:
Establishing high level performance indicators and a supporting action plan across all parties can drive improvements across the range of criminal justice processes. The principle of joint target setting between Northern Constabulary, the Area Procurator Fiscal and partner agencies participating within the Highlands and Island Criminal Justice Board is acknowledged as good practice and should be considered for implementation in other areas.
Recommendation 3 - that ACPOS and COPFS support the introduction of end-to-end targets which drive the joint performance of criminal justice partners in relation to their key processes in bringing offenders to justice.
3.5 Youth Justice Comparisons
In 2004, the Scottish Executive launched the Youth Justice Strategy to reduce by 10% the number of persistent offenders by 2005/2006. The inspection team recognises this as a key target which seeks to deliver a specific outcome and does not concentrate directly on process improvements within individual agencies. Given the Scottish Executive strategic priority to reduce adult re-offending (Section 1.6) there would appear to be scope to develop a similar "outcome" based target for the adult criminal justice system. Criminal Justice Boards and Community Justice Authorities could monitor and report on these.
In setting the standards for Youth Justice, an end-to-end target was set to implement the decision of a Children's Hearing within 80 working days of the child being cautioned and charged by the police. A series of separate targets were set for key sub-processes, namely:
- Police will provide report to Children's Reporter within 14 calendar days of caution and charge
- Children's Reporter will request assessment form Criminal Justice Social Work Department within two working days of receipt of offence
- the local Youth Justice Team will assess the case and submit an action plan for the offender within 20 working days
- Children's Reporter will make a decision about the referral (hearing or otherwise) within 28 working days of receipt
- Hearing is scheduled to take place within a maximum of 15 working days of Reporter's decision
- Local Authority will implement requirement of decision of children's hearing within five working days of being advised of decision made.
This approach promotes transparency in relation to the performance of individual partners and their contribution to the lifespan of a case. HMIC and IPS consider that the approach to target setting within the Youth Justice Strategy is valid and lends support for a similar approach being adopted across the adult criminal justice system.
3.6 Fast Tracking
The McInnes Report identified the need to improve speed and efficiency and highlighted the concept of "fast tracking" cases within the criminal justice system. The inspection team was apprised of examples of good communication and joint working between local criminal justice partners, where specific offenders or types of offenders can be identified and brought to justice more quickly. As fast tracking involves processes beyond reporting offenders and taking decisions to prosecute, it has not been examined in detail by this inspection. However, the inspection team acknowledges the innovative developments of "Cleanstream" projects within Grampian and West Lothian, which seek process improvements across all criminal justice partners. "Fast Tracking" has also been successfully introduced through initiatives such as the Hamilton and Airdrie Youth courts. These are all examples where specific types of offenders can be dealt with more effectively. HMIC and IPS are aware that these initiatives are all subject to separate evaluation which will inform ACPOS, COPFS and other criminal justice partners on the potential benefits and wider application across Scotland.
3.7 Management Information
The ACPOS/ COPFS Joint Protocol recommended that the ISCJIS Project Board consider the provision of appropriate management information, that can be routinely shared with criminal justice partners, to assist with monitoring targets. The inspection team was informed of the Statistical and Management Information System ( SMIS), which was established as a proof of concept to examine ways of exploiting data within the criminal justice community. The project is seeking to:
- test the logistics of capturing, processing and summarising data electronically on the dates of key events in the life cycle of criminal justice cases
- develop a front-end analysis tool for users to generate standard summaries of this information, broken down by factors of interest to them, such as police force area and type of offence.
A trial system was delivered in November 2005 and has since undergone initial evaluation. Work to test the operational requirements is expected to continue until mid-April 2006, when the system will be made more widely available to the user community. The inspection team recognises that a key consideration in the future development of the SMIS project will be the need to meet the emerging information requirements of the National Criminal Justice Board and local criminal justice boards. This is likely to include reporting on end-to-end performance of criminal cases. Progressing from a pilot SMIS system to a fully operational one will depend on the successful evaluation of the pilot system.
The inspection team is aware of local initiatives between forces and Area Procurators Fiscal. These include routine sharing of joint management information within Highlands & Islands Criminal Justice Board. Good practice also exists in Central Scotland and Tayside, where management information is routinely shared between partner agencies to assist in monitoring agreed targets. The inspection team acknowledges that a great deal of useful information is being provided through the COPFS Future Office System ( FOS), which is the national database that processes all prosecution reports received by Procurators Fiscal. This highlights the significant benefits that accrue from a single national system and is in stark contrast to the variation in police information systems.
HMIC previously reported that meaningful data capture across the Scottish police service is the least well developed aspect of local performance management systems. And it has recommended 11 that ACPOS, in liaison with the Scottish Executive, consider procuring a suitable common IT solution to support performance management across all Scottish forces, as a top priority. The inspection team is aware that the ACPOS Performance Management Business Area is currently developing an Efficient Government Fund bid in respect of such a system. HMIC and IPS recognise that a common IT solution provides significant opportunities for sharing management information on police performance. They recommend, therefore, that ACPOS incorporate the current and proposed data requirements for criminal justice as part of the user specification for any common IT solution to support police performance management.
Recommendation 4 - that ACPOS incorporate the current and proposed data requirements for criminal justice as part of the user specification for any common IT solution to support police performance management.