West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service virtual internship – a valuable experience

COVID restricted everyone’s internship plans and like many students in second year or those on a year abroad, the thought of securing an internship seemed impossible. CPS West Midlands however offered a four day insight into the life of a prosecutor. What I expected to be a simple insight into the job turned into an in-depth and highly interactive placement. I was sent a case study to read and annotate beforehand on the subject of sexual assault. I studied family law last year and two classes were on domestic abuse policy. Therefore, the case study was very interesting due to the many practical issues concerning sexual assault convictions. In the future, I want to be a family solicitor and so being able to see the inner workings of the CPS in charging offences relating to this was invaluable.

The structure of the programme gave a great overview of the CPS. There were presentations on the CPS code, Magistrates court and the Crown court before consideration of case progression in both of them. This allowed for knowledge of each unit and practical experience within each of them.

It was strange for an internship to be virtual however the CPS made it work. It gave a different dimension to networking and made it even more important to put yourself out there and ask questions about everything. It is more difficult to network online and so grabbing every opportunity for exposure is vital. The chat panel was very important in discussing the prosecution of the defendant in the case and the mixture of responses was noted by the organisers. The experience is what you make of it and this programme made it significantly easier with the in-depth consideration of a case study. One of the highlights for me were the videos created by CPS to act out the bail application and the pre-trial indictment proceedings. It gave the internship another dimension and moved it out of being similar to a lecture, which admittedly I was worried it would be like.

The highlight of the programme for me was the career panel in the last session. During this, an experienced prosecutor from the Crown Court unit and a newly trained prosecutor provided insight into the application process. I always find that the most valuable piece of information from a career panel is the characteristics are they looking for in an applicant. Asma Majeed, a Crown Court unit prosecutor, replied that a variety of characteristics including different personalities, an understanding of the CPS and a passion for supporting victims and witnesses is vital. This may sound like the generic response from practising solicitors but it is important to remember. In applications it has been proven that showing your personality and your individual interests is key as ultimately networking is just as important as technical knowledge for the job. Within my application for this programme, I made sure that my interest in justice for sexual assault victims was prominent. It was a rewarding coincidence that the case study was on just that.

There were some challenges to being a prosecutor which I can now sympathise with. For example, in session four we considered what to do after the victim retracted his statement. The balancing of whether a witness summons would harm him more than it would benefit the prosecution’s case by forcing him to testify is easy in theory. Yet after spending two sessions reading the witness statements and seeing the impact on the young children caught in the relationship, it was harder to disassociate justice from compassion for the victim and their wishes. I want to work closely with victims and the vitality of this in the CPS could not have been more prominent.

This process has exposed me to the opportunities provided by the CPS, which I had never considered. I had always associated criminal law with being a barrister. With my focus being becoming a solicitor, it was a surprise that they provide training to become a solicitor before being a prosecutor and do not require completing the bar beforehand. I am now seriously considering applying to the CPS under their 2 year legal trainee scheme which without this experience, I would have never considered.

The formal and structured yet comfortable environment of the programme made it a great virtual work experience and one I cannot recommend enough. Putting yourself out there in any way during this primarily virtual time is not easy but signing up to just one work experience shows proactivity and can only expand your options and with it, your skills and confidence.

Other Warwick attendees said:

The CPS Work Experience Program was fantastic. All of the session leaders were very informative and provided invaluable insight into life as a Crown prosecutor. It was also a useful introduction to the necessary skills for the job, as it provided the opportunity to use case studies and engage in discussions. Overall, I feel like I gained insight far beyond what I thought possible sitting at home at my desk, the experience helping me consider a career at the CPS more seriously.” 

“The experience provided an overview of CPS operations and the opportunity to analyse a case study to understand a Prosecutor’s thought process. I would highly recommend anyone who is considering a career with CPS to apply for the programme!”

Freya Cox

Law Student – April 2021

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