Chapter 1 – Criminal Justice Strategy
1.1 What is Case Management?
The term "case management" has been used by HMIC and IPS as an all-encompassing term to describe the various processes used by police forces to report offenders and by COPFS in deciding on prosecution. It represents the initial stages of the Scottish criminal justice system and is instrumental in bringing offenders to justice through the courts.
HMIC and IPS recognise that increasingly efficient case management will provide significant benefits. These can be achieved through improving the quality of information available to inform decision-making by other criminal justice partners, and by reducing the overall time taken to make offenders accountable for their actions. Improvements in case management which support prompt and appropriate disposals for offenders, will also go some way towards reducing the impact upon the victims of crime and increasing public confidence in the Scottish criminal justice system.
Forces use a number of key processes to support the recording and investigation of crimes and to provide victim care. These processes are applied in advance of case management and have an impact on the efficiency of the criminal justice system. They have recently been scrutinised by HMIC and fall outwith the scope of this joint inspection. 4
1.2 Criminal Justice Reform in Scotland
"But we want a different kind of justice service, which does more than simply process offenders who come through its entry points. We want a service which addresses the needs of communities as well as the deeds - and needs - of the offenders."
Smarter Justice, Safer Communities - Summary Justice Reform 5.
The joint inspection was completed against a backdrop of significant criminal justice reform, driven by the Scottish Executive and impacting positively upon all criminal justice agencies. This reform has been ongoing since 2002 and was informed by a series of influential reviews, including the Bonomy and Normand Reports in 2002 and the McInnes Report in 2004. HMIC and IPS acknowledge these reports as catalysts for change and improvements across the Scottish criminal justice system.
1.3 Bonomy Report
In December 2001, the Deputy First Minister (as Minister for Justice) commissioned Lord Bonomy to review improving practices and procedures within the High Court of Justiciary. The report was published in December 2002. It was followed by publication of a Scottish Executive White Paper6 and the introduction of the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2004. The Bonomy Report has been particularly influential in improving processes between police forces and COPFS in relation to reporting serious crime, statements and disclosure. These aspects have been examined as part of this inspection.
1.4 Normand Report
In March 2002 the Lord Advocate and the Deputy First Minister (as Minister for Justice) commissioned a review to consider integrating the aims, objectives and targets of the principal agencies which make up the criminal justice system in Scotland, and to secure delivery of the Scottish Executive's criminal justice priorities. This review was carried out by the then Crown Agent, Andrew Normand CB. It built on earlier work by the Scottish Executive Criminal Justice Liaison Group, which recognised both the importance of improved integration between agencies and the possibility of overarching aims and objectives within the criminal justice system. The review also coincided with a COPFS Management Review Report 2002 7, which examined relationships with other criminal justice partners to improve joined up working across the criminal justice system.
In reviewing the lifespan of a case, from offence to disposal, the Normand Report highlighted the need to manage end-to-end processes throughout the criminal justice system as being a means of improving efficiency. The review made recommendations in relation to target setting for reducing persistent offending. It also commented on the proportion of recorded crimes for which action is taken against offenders, as well as the level of reported cases in which no proceedings are taken because of insufficient evidence or triviality. Again, within the wider context of criminal justice services, the review recommended an effective framework of cross system mechanisms to support better joined up working. It was recommended that a national Board oversee the operation and performance against the overarching aims and objectives and that there should be an effective framework of local boards throughout Scotland.
HMIC and IPS acknowledge the significant influence of the Normand Report in reforming criminal justice. So too, its impact on informing subsequent developments within police forces and COPFS in relation to case management. It also provided the impetus behind establishing the National Criminal Justice Board and local criminal justice boards (Section 2.4).
1.5 McInnes Report
In November 2001 the Deputy First Minister (as Minister for Justice) announced the formation of The Summary Justice Review Committee in Scotland, under the chairmanship of Sheriff Principal John McInnes. The committee set out to review the provision of summary justice in Scotland, including the structures and procedures of the Sheriff and District Court. It went on to make recommendations for a more efficient and effective delivery of summary justice in Scotland.
In January 2004, the Committee published a report which identified the key aims of a summary justice system as follows: to be fair to victims and accused; to be effective in deterring, punishing and helping to rehabilitate; and to make efficient use of time and resources where overall speed in dealing with cases is considered a priority. The committee contended that the criminal justice system should be easily understood by lay people, and be "user-centred" rather than "service-driven". The system should also be consistent and increase public confidence in its ability to deter re-offending and tackle young offenders. The Committee concluded that the summary justice system required a comprehensive overhaul and that active management of the whole system was needed. It welcomed the recommendation made within the Normand Report, identifying Criminal Justice Boards as a vehicle to address corporate performance issues within the system. Whilst many of the recommendations fall outwith the scope of the joint inspection, the inspection team considered:
- target setting in regard to speeding up the criminal justice process
- proportionate management of cases within the criminal justice system
- streamlining of information flows between partner agencies
- lack of available management information regarding "lifespan" of cases
- lack of consistency of approach across the spectrum of the criminal justice system
- extension in use of alternatives to prosecution
- extension of police non-reporting.
These issues have been commented on throughout this report.
1.6 Scottish Executive Strategy
The Scottish Executive has embarked upon the most radical reform of the criminal justice system for more than a generation. In December 2004 it published Supporting Safer, Stronger Communities - Scotland's Criminal Justice Plan8. This document recognises that all the services which make Scotland's criminal justice system have distinct responsibilities. It also appreciates that there are good reasons for the constitutional independence of the courts, the discretion exercised by the prosecution services and the operational independence of Chief Constables. However, it recognised that all work together with other agencies, especially the prisons, criminal justice social work, voluntary agencies and others who deal directly with offenders. Significantly, the plan highlights the fact that criminal justice services do not operate apart from the communities they serve.
The challenge identified in the plan is for all services " to work together more effectively and more coherently, securing public confidence that those who offend will be brought to justice speedily and efficiently, then sentenced and dealt with in a way appropriate to their crime and which will reduce re-offending in the future" .HMIC and IPS acknowledge that implicit in this challenge is the need for effective communication and partnership working between police forces and COPFS. Also required are improvements in case management that will reduce the volume of reports and the time taken to bring offenders to justice.
Scotland's Criminal Justice Plan establishes reducing offending as the common priority for all criminal justice agencies. It identifies a series of actions around the following areas:
- protecting communities and preventing crime
- tackling drugs in our communities
- reform of Scotland's courts
- effective interventions and sentences which fit the crime
- integrated services for managing offenders.
While many actions impact upon Scottish police forces and COPFS, the most relevant in terms of case management are:
- introduction of the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004
- integration of the criminal justice information system through the ISCJIS project so that IT can be fully exploited in improving case handling and management information
- establishment of the National Criminal Justice System Board concerned with efficiency levels and roll out of local boards across Scotland
- reforms to make the courts work more efficiently to deliver faster, visible justice to confront offenders swiftly with the consequences of their actions
- developments in drugs and youth courts and evaluation of domestic abuse courts.
In March 2005, the Scottish Executive published Smarter Justice, Safer Communities - Summary Justice Reform9, which outlines plans for reforming summary criminal justice in Scotland. This report was informed by the McInnes Report and establishes the Scottish Executive vision of a summary justice system that:
- is faster and more visible to the communities it serves
- works across organisations more effectively and efficiently
- tackles lower level offending quickly and appropriately, leading to reductions in re-offending
- involves and engages with communities to ensure that their concerns are addressed.
The summary justice system deals with those less serious offences. These account for 96% of criminal court business, and include offences ranging from minor breaches of the peace through to assaults and weapons offences, and include almost all road traffic offences. While the offences may not individually be serious, their volume means that cumulatively they are a major concern to communities.
The proposals reinforce the need for effective communication and partnership working between forces and COPFS, to seek improvements in the time taken to report offenders. However, it is significant that these proposals promote the " better management of cases - diverting from prosecution where appropriate, swift prosecution where necessary - helping to reduce the upwards flow of business towards short sentences". There is a risk that focusing on efficiency in isolation may simply mean that more people end up in prison faster. Thus there is a need to balance the emphasis on handling cases at the appropriate level. HMIC and IPS endorse this view. They further believe that while improvements in case management are essential in improving criminal justice, these must form part of a wider criminal justice strategy which delivers successful outcomes and not simply quicker processes.
Building public confidence is a key feature of these proposals. This flows from concerns around invisible justice, where the public perception is that the system prioritises serious crime and underestimates the community impact of less serious but persistent offending. The Scottish Executive is committed to engaging with communities in tackling low level offending and delivering visible and speedy reparation.
HMIC and IPS acknowledge the important roles of forces and COPFS in delivering summary justice reform. Likewise they recognise the need for forces and COPFS to develop effective strategies which engage with communities and visibly tackle less serious but persistent offending. Implicit within this will be the need to develop innovative non-reporting options and non-court disposals (Chapter 8).
Undertaking the Joint Thematic Inspection within the wider context of criminal justice reform has allowed HMIC and IPS to comment beyond the scope of case management and to consider the range of initiatives which involve forces and COPFS in seeking to deliver this reform.
"The purpose of the strategy is to ensure that all victims of crime will be able to get support and assistance at all stages of the criminal justice process and thereafter if needed."
(Jim Wallace, Deputy first Minister and Minister for Justice, 2000)
In January 2001 the Scottish Executive launched the Scottish Strategy for Victims, which outlined a framework for responding to victims' needs. It recognised that the needs of all victims, irrespective of whether or not they are also witnesses, should be taken into consideration by all relevant agencies.
HMIC and IPS recognise the requirement for forces and Procurators Fiscal to acknowledge the needs of victims and witnesses within their joint working practice. Appropriate consideration should be given to providing a system which is responsive to victim and witness needs, encourages active participation in the criminal justice process and delivers appropriate support and information to victims and witnesses. While witnesses and victims fall outwith the scope of the current inspection, the IPS has recently completed a Joint Thematic Inspection with the Witness Service on the provision of services to witnesses.
1.8 ACPOS/ COPFS Protocol
During 2003 an ACPOS and COPFS steering group commissioned a review to consider the timing, quality and volume of police reports and witness statements. This review also considered recorded police warnings, submission deadlines and the implications of a previously agreed target of 28 days for forces to submit reports to COPFS. The review produced the ACPOS/ COPFS Joint Protocol, containing 33 separate recommendations that sought improvements in the timeliness and quality of police reports and statements, in communications between police forces and COPFS and in training.
The agreement of the Joint Protocol was followed by an action plan that identified lead responsibilities for each recommendation. Some were considered more suitable for national implementation through ACPOS or COPFS, whilst others were to be progressed at a local level by individual forces or Area Procurators Fiscal. Three specific actions were considered to fall under the responsibility of ISCJIS (Section 2.2). In an effort to assist with local implementation, templates were produced for forces and Area Procurators Fiscal to agree local protocols in respect of reports, communications, serious crime, minor offences, exchange of information and training. The action plan was approved for implementation in March 2004.
Though considerable progress has been made relative to a number of the recommendations, the inspection team confirmed that there has been limited national co-ordination by ACPOS or COPFS. Tayside and Fife have developed local action plans with their respective Area Procurators Fiscal, while Northern has progressed the recommendations through the local Criminal Justice Board. The remaining police forces and Area Procurators Fiscal have progressed recommendations on an "issue-by-issue" basis.
During the inspection, forces and Area Procurators Fiscal questioned the current validity of some Joint Protocol recommendations, particularly in light of summary justice reform and the antisocial behaviour agenda. The inspection team was informed of ongoing discussion between ACPOS and COPFS to review the Joint Protocol and to agree a refreshed Joint Protocol, based on more precise business rules. HMIC and IPS believe that this review will present opportunities for ACPOS and COPFS to consider the recommendations of this joint thematic inspection, and ultimately will serve as a catalyst for further improvements in case management.
While the inspection team acknowledges ACPOS and COPFS efforts in developing an implementation plan for the current Joint Protocol, it found limited evidence of national or local co-ordination and progress review. HMIC and IPS believe that ACPOS and COPFS should deliver the refreshed joint protocol through a structured implementation plan, with key deliverables and milestones. They should also introduce processes for monitoring progress and review.
Recommendation 1 - that ACPOS and COPFS progress a review of the existing Joint Protocol in light of current developments within the criminal justice system, and agree a refreshed Joint Protocol which will serve as a catalyst for further improvements in case management. ACPOS and COPFS should also develop an implementation plan to deliver the refreshed Joint Protocol, with key deliverables, milestones and monitoring arrangements.