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The Commissioner’s Response to the Ministry of Justice Consultation – Changes to the Criminal Justice Statistics

5th April 2016

Vera Baird QC’s response to the Ministry of Justice Consultation and Statistical Note about changes to the Criminal Justice Statistics.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes for future editions of criminal justice statistics. I would agree that the current statistical return is ready and due for updating. This information is useful in determining overall trends in demand and outcomes but I would suggest that the information could be developed and strengthened to provide information about the delivery progress of reforming the Criminal Justice System. The service is undergoing a significant change and certain data would provide services with assistance in understanding and managing Transforming Summary Justice (TSJ) and Better Case Management (BCM) across the criminal courts. The TSJ performance weighted tables available on a quarterly basis are more relevant to our efforts to improve the CJS, however, more ‘live time’ identification of issues such as the percentage of pleas entered at 1st hearing and impacts of trial listing patterns on victim/witness attendance would help us understand issues and react far more swiftly.
It would perhaps be useful if the statistical return (& the changes proposed) were more informed by the failings that have recently been reported within the national CJS and are identified from the TSJ performance dashboard. If we consider the report regarding the effectiveness of LCJBs (‘Working in Step’) and the recent publication from the National Audit Office (‘Efficiency in the CJS’), there is a potential for the proposed national statistical dataset and published performance return to tie into what will ultimately help to drive up performance in at least these two areas?
If we consider that the MoJ are looking at what performance measures need to be in place for LCJB’s, and we know we need to improve on things like effective trial rates, delays in the crown court, and harmonising partnership objectives, then we could benefit from this being pulled together. I recognise that it may be that the data available from the TSJ dashboard and the reasons for good and poor performance is too complex to feature in a national data return, but would appreciate some consideration in respect of this.
As a final comment it would be useful if the whole national CJ dataset published could provide information that will help us to improve and future proof the work of the CJS in our area. Much of the data to identify areas for improvement has to be either manually collected locally and with a better co-ordinated and more joined up approach could be available to areas and policy makers to make the difference earlier and more effectively. Impacts of changes such as TSJ, Digital Working, and Centralisation of Courts need to be understood alongside the high level statistical returns published.
It would also be useful for the MOJ in providing these data sets to pick up on threats that have emerged over the last few years like the CJ response to cybercrime, increase in the reporting of sexual offences and CSE. Perhaps these changes are a key reason why delays in the crown courts are increasing i.e. cases are fewer but more complex and we need to understand this and may require different resource models across all agencies to reflect the profile of crimes.
1. Changes to the content of CJS Overview tables

Q1a Are you content to use the alternative source instead of the Overview Table?

Q1b Do you require any of the information which would no longer be available?
I am happy with the proposed changes to the overview tables and confirm that the information
provided in these will meet our needs.

2. Publication of information on defendants failing to appear at magistrates’ court?

Q2a Do you have a need for the information on defendants failing to appear at magistrate’s court
and if so for what purpose?

Q2b If you do need this information, would the example tables meet your needs?
In my view this should be without doubt in the reporting framework. I would actually go further in
suggesting the percentage of pleas submitted at the 1st hearing, broken down into the numbers of
FTA and other reasons should be taken from HMCTS data and included allowing analysis of the
impact of that number set against the net effect on early guilty pleas TSJ performance and Public
Confidence. Local analysis shows this has a real impact on the overall efficiency of the CJS and if we
can understand the local and national position this will help to develop solutions. Furthermore, we
should also ask for consideration to be given to HMCTS data being published that provides an
overview of the numbers (perhaps a %) of those defendants who FTA who go on to receive a
sanction. There appears to have been an acceptance of FTA across the CJS that requires addressing.

3. Publication of information on defendants failing to appear at magistrates’ court?
Q3a Would you find additional information on remand decisions helpful?
Q3b Is there any other information on remand that you would find useful?
I support the provision of remand data, but we need to make sure the proposal to provide more
data isn’t just for offences, but that it’s split into categories for instance domestic and sexual abuse
as opposed to focusing on only low level volume crime. It would also be useful to see some data that
allowed us to interpret the final outcome in relation to cases which start life as a remand case as
well as the timetable for when guilty pleas are entered. If we get the decision to seek a remand
hearing wrong in the first instance what we need to understand better is does this have a negative
effect on the management and effectiveness of the case outcome and overall length of delivery?

4. Rationalising the interactive data tools
Q4a Would you be content with our proposed changes to monitoring and drug data tools?
Q4b Which of the existing data tools do you find useful and for what purpose?
I agree the proposal to rationalise the data tools as detailed, however this will only work if the data
for the Out of Court Disposals will be incorporated into the CJ statistics outcomes. This information is
useful for trend analysis and strategic planning but is currently too old for day to day management of
the business and performance improvement so we could also benefit from a more up to date data

5. Publishing outcome by offence information at the Home Office offence code level?

Q5a would you find the additional content useful?

Q5b If so, what outcome fields (e.g. specific sentencing information) would you want to view?
I am supportive of the publication of outcome by offence information at the Home Office offence code level.