Our school runs a comprehensive work experience for our Year 12 students, sadly not operating as it should do this year owing to Covid-19 restrictions. However, Year 10 student, Matthew Ingham, has taken his own initiative and embarked on an online work experience scheme with the Crown Prosecution service. Matthew maintained a highly articulate journal of his 9-day work experience with the CPS, in which he highlights key bits of information and fascinating insights. His journal is published here, below. It’s an inspiring glimpse into what can be gained from a well-delivered work experience programme:
CPS Work Experience Journal
My work experience placement with the Crown Prosecution Service started on 18/05/2020. The following is a journal, documenting my experiences from each session, as well as some information that I found interesting.
Monday 18th May 2020
Today was the first day of my online work experience placement with the Crown Prosecution Service. This placement covers a variety of different topics, all of them aspects that CPS employees deal with on a daily basis. These topics ranged from the basics of the prosecution process and charging decisions, to knife crime and county lines.
The main focus of today’s session was to introduce us to the CPS and give us a brief outline of how they operate – with focus on the prosecution process. Two CPS employees – who both work as barristers for the state – discussed the way in which the CPS operates, discussing everything that happens from the moment a crime occurs, to the potential sentencing decisions.
This session was extremely insightful, and I was able to learn a lot about the importance of the CPS and the role that they play in making correct and just sentence decisions.
Interesting Information – The age of legal responsibility is 10; this means that any crime committed by somebody under the age of 10 has no legal consequences; however, safeguarding measures will be put into place.
Tuesday 19th May 2020
The main focus of today’s session was charging decisions. A charging decision is a process that the CPS takes once they have compiled a substantial amount of evidence for a case, that all points towards the same conclusion. The CPS must decide whether a trial should be held in the Magistrate’s Court or the Crown Court, this depends on the severity of the crime committed. Some charging decisions may include prison sentences (or detention sentences for youths), whereas others may be fines, community service, ankle tags, etc. If the CPS feel they have enough evidence in a case, then they do something called the full code test, if they feel there is more evidence available, but it won’t affect their final decision, then the threshold test is conducted; however, the latter is quite rare.
We studied a real case and discussed the reliability of all the evidence. This included discussing different versions of events from a variety of witnesses and other people of interest. We also discussed what charging decisions we would make, and if we had enough conclusive evidence to be sure of our decisions.
This was another interesting session and I feel as though I have learned a lot about charging decisions and the reliability of evidence.
Interesting Information – The CPS work independently from the media and any other outside organisations – including the police. This means that all outside opinions are not taken into account (for example, a newspaper report could not be used as evidence in court).
Wednesday 20th May 2020
Another common thing that the CPS deals with regularly is hate crime. A hate crime is a regular crime that has taken place because of a prejudice towards the victim. There are a list of things that are protected by the law in these instances, these are called protected characteristics. The list is as follows:
- Gender reassignment
- Sexual orientation
- Religion or belief (or lack of religion or belief)
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Marriage or civil partnership.
We also discussed how a discriminatory motive can affect charging decisions. Any sentence can be increased by up to – and including – 50%, when the incident has been aggravated by hate.
You can report hate crime online, or by calling 101. There are also many websites that offer advice and support surrounding hate crime. Remember, if it’s an emergency, call 999.
Interesting Information – In Manchester, we have an extra protected characteristic – alternative culture. This protects people who are goths, those who identify with steampunk culture, and a variety of other alternative cultures. For more information about this, visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-34919722
Thursday 21st May 2020
Continuing on yesterday’s theme of hate crime, today we looked at a real case where hate crime was involved. I cannot disclose specific information about the case; however, we discussed it, looking at all the evidence, statements and summaries from the Magistrate’s Court, and identified flaws in the way that the case was dealt with. We then discussed what more we would have liked to see from the case, and what charging decisions we would have made.
We also talked about what we would do if we found ourselves in a situation like the one we were looking at, both as the victim and as an independent witness. In this discussion, we brainstormed different ways to safely intervene if we witnessed a hate crime or a violent crime.
Once again, this was an incredibly interesting session!
Interesting Information – If a defendant pleads guilty in their first hearing, they are entitled to up to one third off a custodial sentence that they may go on to receive.
Friday 22nd May 2020
In today’s rather graphic session, we focussed on knife crime – discussing things such as:
- What types of bladed objects are banned in the UK
- The possible charges for committing a knife crime
- The possible charges for being associated with a knife crime
- The possible charges for carrying a knife.
The session was delivered from an outside speaker, Byron Highton, who runs a company called The JJ Effect. The company is named after his brother, Jonjo Highton – who sadly lost his life to knife crime in August 2014.
Not only was this session informative, but it was also deeply touching. It is companies like The JJ Effectthat are needed in order to put a stop to knife crime.
Interesting Information – If found carrying a knife, for whatever reason, you can receive a prison sentence of maximum 5 years.
Tuesday 26th May 2020
The session today focussed on rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO) and how the CPS deal with them. We discussed what kind of things the RASSO unit encounters regularly and how they deal with them. We also looked at the differences between consent, conditional consent and apparent consent – focusing how a jury, magistrates and judges see them and how they are vital to building a successful case.
Apparent consent is something that comes up regularly in RASSO cases. It is where a defendant will argue that they didn’t need consent, usually because “they have always done it”.
I learned a lot about the RASSO unit in this session, and the difficult cases that many of them deal with regularly. This was a very shocking session, as I found it very surprising how often these cases have to be dealt with.
Interesting Information – As a result of the number of potentially disturbing cases that RASSO unit workers deal with, they have to transfer to another unit after a period of time to avoid psychological trauma and maintain a good standard of mental health and wellbeing.
Wednesday 27th May 2020
In my favourite session so far, we held a mock trial for a real case. I enjoyed this session, as it was great to be able to get into the mindset of barristers, judges and jury members and experience something similar to what really happens in court.
I was playing the role of prosecution barrister, meaning it was my job to work with the complainant and form a strong enough case for justice to prevail. The mock jury found the “defendant” guilty, and they were sentenced with a fine and a number of hours of community service.
Interesting Information – If a jury cannot agree on a decision, then the defendant will be declared “not guilty”; however, in serious cases, a judge may accept a majority decision.
Thursday 28th May 2020
County lines and modern slavery – dangerous crimes and also the topics of today’s session. County lines is one example of modern slavery and is where somebody (usually a child or teenager) is sent to somewhere, by a gang, to either deliver or sell something illegal – usually drugs. This usually happens because the person has some sort of debt to the gang, and they are forced to work to pay this off. Many of the people who get involved with county lines are attacked by the gang, or maybe even killed if they don’t get help. A video that explains county lines really well, and looks at how easily it can ruin lives can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLhGpS1f-F0.
If you are concerned about yourself, or somebody you know, being involved in county lines then report it. Juries, judges and magistrates will be much more lenient if it is reported before it goes too far.
Interesting Information – Since 2015, the modern slavery defence can be used by victims of county lines. This defence, if used honestly, will make juries, judges and magistrates much more lenient and understanding.
Friday 29th May 2020
Today’s main focus was employability and to wrap up everything from the other sessions. This placement has been incredibly insightful and fascinating, and I have really enjoyed it. A huge thanks to everyone at the CPS who was involved in organising it, and also to all the speakers, both internal and external. Once things become more normal, we will visit the courts and the offices and have a few more sessions. In April 2021, I am eligible to apply for a ring-fenced apprenticeship with the CPS.
After completing all of the sessions, I feel much more aware of how the CPS operates and also how things work in a trial. I am even more interested in pursuing a career in criminal law than I was before this placement, and I am going to continue to learn more about criminal law – whilst also looking out for any opportunities, with the CPS or other organisations, that relate to these areas or interest.
Report by Matthew Ingham (10M)