CPS Launches Defendants Strategy
A commitment to fairness for all parties is at the heart of a new Defendants Strategy, launched this week by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The three-year strategy addresses areas where suspects and defendants may face challenges when involved in the criminal justice system, focusing on three priorities - mental health, youth justice and the proportionality of its decision making.
A detailed action plan has also been published, which sets out practical steps to bring improvements in the support given to suspects or defendants who may face additional barriers or with additional needs to participate fully in the criminal justice process.
A new guide for suspects and defendants will be launched to explain the role of the CPS so they are clear what they can expect from it at each stage of the process.
The CPS will:
- Create a new mental health monitoring code on the CPS Case Management System to allow closer monitoring of cases where mental health is an issue.
- Review how decisions are made on virtual hearings and how a defendant’s needs are identified and supported during this process.
- Pilot the joint CPS/National Police Chief’s Council Mental Health and Neurodevelopmental checklist for suspects.
- Refresh CPS training and guidance on conversations with youth or child defendants at court so language is child-friendly.
- Review and update the CPS Youth Justice Specialist role and training to upskill prosecutors when dealing with complex youth casework or standard cases involving children.
- Inform the Ministry of Justice review of the Youth Justice System and the role of the CPS and suggest ways in which the system can be improved to assist child suspects and defendants.
- Create a Mental Health stakeholder forum bringing together experts and interested parties in the field of mental health to ensure best practice is up to date.
Mental health is a major theme after a CPS examination of around 400 cases in 2017 suggested that one in five involved a victim, witness, or defendant with a mental health condition. The strategy focuses on exploring how defendants with extra needs can be identified at an early stage so additional support can be offered to help them fully participate.
It is recognised that youth casework is another area where defendants can be vulnerable and so efforts are being made to increase the use of expert youth specialist prosecutors. These lawyers are highly trained to understand the complexities of youth cases and make sure treatment is consistent.
As a firm we welcome this initiative and will be monitoring its implementation closely in order to achieve the best outcomes for all of our vulnerable and young clients.
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