The initiative is described in “Engaging Communities in Criminal Justice”, a consultation paper released by the Criminal Justice System of England and Wales in April 2009. The paper “sets out the government’s proposals for transforming criminal justice from a system that does things to communities into a true service that does things for and with communities.”
The proposals in the paper are built around four primary aims:
- Achieving stronger, community-focused partnerships that draw together activity across criminal justice services and other relevant agencies to secure effective, two-way communications between the Criminal Justice System and local communities;
- Building on the success of community justice projects and the problem-solving approach to enhance the visibility of the Criminal Justice System, solve problems for the community, and reform offenders and enable them to make amends;
- Increasing the intensity and visibility of community-restitution efforts;
- Keeping the public informed by improving the information the public receives about case outcomes and, in this way, helping ensure that the public sees a connection between the crime and the punishment meted out in response.
The paper describes community prosecution as “a major new initiative” for the Crown Prosecution Service that will strengthen the agency’s role and “ensure it will be better able to play its full role in community engagement alongside the police, courts, and other partners.”
The paper continues: “The aim of the approach is to enable the CPS to provide a more locally responsive service than it can at present and it will enhance the CPS’ ability to respond to local needs and circumstances.”
“The community prosecutor approach is about the way the CPS does business, rather than creating a cadre of ‘community prosecutors’, and delivery of it will be subject to local variations and circumstances. It is anticipated that all members of the CPS will, over time, come to regard themselves as community prosecutors.”
The Crown Prosecution Service began testing the community prosecutor approach in 49 sites across England and Wales over 12 months, starting in June 2009. Each site is testing:
- Crown Prosecution Service prosecutors’ taking more “community-aware” casework decisions;
- Increased Crown Prosecution Service involvement in problem solving for local crime and disorder priorities; and
- Increased visibility to communities and other agencies of the Crown Prosecution Service’s responsiveness to these priorities.
By the end of 2009, the community prosecutor approach in 30 of the pilot locations will be delivered alongside three other initiatives described in the consultation paper: community impact statements, community justice teams, and citizens’ panels.
Watch a short video in which Community Prosecutor Gaynor Zeki talks about the pilot program in Wakefield, England.