Magazine article Management Today

A Suitable Case for Devolution

Magazine article Management Today

A Suitable Case for Devolution

Article excerpt

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is a government department which carries out most of the criminal prosecutions in England and Wales. These currently number about one and a half million every year. As director of Public Prosecutions, I head the CPS which has a staff of approximately 6,000 employees. Some 2,200 are lawyers, making the CPS the largest employer of lawyers in the country. We have 140 offices and service all the magistrates' courts and crown courts. Despite its diffuse establishment, the CPS is a national service and consistent. standards of decision-making are required.

It is now eight years since the CPS took over prosecutions from the patchwork of police prosecution departments. Recently, it has made very radical changes to try to match its core business more closely with its structure and the roles and responsibilities of staff at all levels.

When I joined the CPS in 1992, 1 found that headquarters dominated the 31 areas (this number arose from historical alignment with police force boundaries). To organise a board meeting of chief crown prosecutors and headquarters staff was almost impossible. Too many casework decisions were being made away from the areas concerned and there was over-centralisation in matters of personnel and finance.

An enduring theme of central initiatives over the past decade has been the need to devolve accountability to the level at which decisions are actually taken and control is exercised. A project for devolution was necessary.

In order to devolve responsibility we had to make sure that the areas were created, structured and staffed in a manner in which they could take on their new responsibilities, yet still enable the core business of the service to be performed. We formed a directors' management group, consisting of myself and five chief officers, which took on the task of organising the restructuring of the CPS. We divided the country into 13 areas, including London (although London had to be treated differently because of its exceptional position). Our aim was to ensure a parity in casework, courts and branch offices wherever possible, taking account of geography and police-force boundaries.

Each new area had to be equipped with a headquarters and staff with appropriate managerial skills and experience, as well as the required expertise in casework. The CPS was fortunate to be able to import personnel who had previous experience of dealing with large budgets from other government departments to become area administrators. Similar experience was obtained in the personnel field. The remainder of the area headquarters was drawn from redeployed CPS staff. …

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