The number of people expressing their satisfaction with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has risen sharply, according to a recent survey. The CPS said that the significant uptick in satisfaction levels was down to a recent initiative which it said had been “groundbreaking.”
The survey was carried out in all the courts of England and Wales, and received 939 responses from a mixture of witnesses and victims. The vast majority of people who experienced cross-examination by defence advocates said that the CPS had given them enough information and the right support to ensure they were properly prepared for the experience. Of all the people who provided their views for the survey, approximately 95% expressed satisfaction for the level of support provided to them by prosecutors.
This is a drastic increase over the equivalent figures from a previous survey. In 2015, victims and witnesses were surveyed and only 62% said that they had received satisfactory support and preparation before their appearances in court. A fifth of respondents said that their experience of giving evidence had left them actively dissatisfied with the CPS.
This significant increase – growth of more than 50% in the number of satisfied victims and witnesses since 2015 – is being explained by the CPS as largely the result of a single initiative. Last year saw the implementation of new official guidance for “Speaking to Witnesses at Court,” which the CPS described as a “groundbreaking” initiative and the one responsible for a drastic increase in standards when it comes to preparing people to give evidence.
This guidance was, in fact, produced and implemented as a result of the negative responses to the 2015 survey mentioned above. The CPS was concerned to learn that a fifth of people were not satisfied with the preparation and support they received, and this prompted the drive to improve the figure and ensure that victims and witnesses were better primed for their experience in court.
A number of specific matters are addressed in the guidance. This includes conversations with witnesses and victims before hearings, the, process of identifying the specific needs and requirements of those giving evidence, and advice on the cross-examination process. It also provides for advice on the subject of evidence-giving and the role that the defence plays.
According to the CPS lead for victims and witnesses, Martin Goldman: “Appearing in court is an inevitably stressful business but if we can help people to feel as comfortable and prepared as possible, justice is also well serviced by the improved evidence they will provide.”
Goldman went on to say that, having made improvements, the CPS “must now maintain these levels and identify how we can do even more to support victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system.”