Helping justice prevail

New
legislation meant the Crown Prosecution Service had to train 4,000 lawyers and
caseworkers nationwide in legislative and non-legislative measures. Enter a
blended solution. By Sue Weekes

While
we’re all aware of the law, most of us can only guess at how much work has to
be done behind the scenes to disseminate new information each time new
legislation is introduced.

In
July 2002, a new piece of legislation came into force regarding the treatment
of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses based on the Home Office’s Speaking Up
for Justice report. It made 78 recommendations to improve access to justice for
such witnesses, ranging from the investigative stage, before a trial, during a
trial and after a trial.

As
a result, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had to ensure that more than
4,000 lawyers and caseworkers were fully trained in the raft of legislative and
non-legislative measures relating to it – a tall order given that these people
were spread up and down the country.

The
CPS decided that e-learning might hold the key. It was always the CPS’
intention to combine the e-learning with classroom training and saw the online
component as a way of raising knowledge levels about the new legislation prior
to classroom sessions.

Key
to success?

"We
had to disseminate as much knowledge about the legislation as possible and
decided some form of distance learning might be the answer," says Sheelagh
Morton, policy adviser to the Crown Prosecution Service.

"E-learning
seemed to be the best medium. We felt it would enable us to update the
information and allow us to provide hyperlinks to background material, as well
as include all the guidance material issued by the Home Office – so it would be
a permanent resource as well as a training programme. This would bring
individuals up to a certain level and then they would be ready to start
applying it in the classroom," says Morton.

The
CPS put the e-online component of the job out to tender and it was won by
e-learning consultancy IQdos, part of the Excel Communications Group, and whose
clients include British Airways, Channel 4, GlaxoSmithKline, Reuters and
Siemens.

Its
brief was to design a programme to provide all those involved with the support
and preparation of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses for court, with the
basic legal knowledge to enable them to understand and implement the
legislative provisions. In summary, the training had to ensure lawyers and
caseworkers would be:


familiar with the new legislation and available guidance to inform best practice;


able to identify vulnerable or intimidated witnesses;


able to explain their role in the identification of vulnerable or intimidated
witnesses through the court processes;


able to access detailed information about the law, practice and procedure for
lawyers and case workers involving vulnerable or intimidated witnesses.

"The
biggest challenge for us was the sheer amount of information that had to be
organised," says Sue Harley, managing director of IQdos, who explains that
a multi-disciplined team of specialists worked on the programme, including
experts in learning psychology and methodology, instructional design,
multimedia, IT and project management. "It comes to about nine hours of
online learning and we wanted to ensure that we presented the information in a
way that added value," adds Harley.

As
well as managing and navigating through large amounts of data, Harley details
the other issues the programme had to address:


large numbers and a variety of users at different locations and with varying IT
considerations


short lead and production times to meet a deadline of 24 July (IQdos was
contracted in May 2002)


the need for cost-effective solution that would meet the budget


flexibility and the need for the CPS to maintain and update the content itself

Getting
started

It
was the need to be able to update material that was one of the biggest drivers
behind the technology that IQdos used for the project. It created a unique
product for the CPS that was based on its e-learning authoring, content
management and tracking tool, LaunchPad, which allows companies to create, edit
and publish their own e-learning content.

"We’ve
made it as easy to use as PowerPoint," Harley claims. "You don’t need
computer programming skills to use it. For the CPS, we built the programme,
trained administrative staff in how to use it and then handed it over to them.
We can usually train people in half a day and then offer three months free help
following this."

The
LaunchPad starter kit also includes a ‘light’ learning management system and
although at the moment the CPS’ programme is largely text-based, the kit does
give users the option to add video, animation, interactive graphics and even
quizzes and games. (Do-it-yourself e-learning, albeit with the help of a leg-up
from a consultancy or supplier, is a growing trend and is the focus of our
feature on page 18).

The
CPS’ course is split into two sections called simply ‘Basics’ and ‘Details’.
"Basics is the basic amount of material that we’d want our members to know
and Details is a detailed explanation of the legislative and non-legislative
measures," says Morton.

"It’s
only text-based at the moment so it can run across our network easily but we
are thinking about multimedia for the future." In terms of IT
infrastructure, the CPS didn’t have to install any new hardware because the
programme can run across a range of technologies from the internet to all types
of networks, including the most basic ones.

Completion
of the IQdos programme is mandatory before attending the classroom training.

The
three-day classroom course is run by internal CPS training staff in partnership
with the Ann Craft Trust, a national association dedicated to protecting adults
and children with learning difficulties from abuse. It aims to identify the
skills and attitude changes needed to deal effectively with the range of
witnesses who may be eligible for assistance under the provisions of the act.

The
programme will be updated as the law is applied by the courts and additional
rulings are made. Next year, the CPS is planning to extend the learning to
cover issues arising from the HMCPSI/HMIC Joint Inspection Report into the
investigation and prosecution of cases involving allegations of rape.

Sharing
knowledge

In
addition to this, the programme, especially with its ability to hyperlink to a
wealth of other information sources on the web, promotes a level of knowledge
sharing that previously wasn’t possible within the criminal justice system.

The
e-learning has already been made available to the CPS’ partners in the system
which include the Bar, the police and the witness service and, later this year,
will be extended to the Law Society and a range of voluntary agencies, such as
Victim Support.

The
CPS is less concerned with return on investment than a commercial organisation
but still has to ensure that its outlay on the programme is justified. Morton
says that about 4,000 classroom days are being saved and the CPS is committed
to developing the use of e-learning in the future, after positive results from
its first implementation. Ultimately, the aim of the training is to ensure more
effective prosecutions and the CPS is already seeing tangible results from the
new legislation.

"Successful
legal cases have already followed the introduction of the legislation,
including a case in which a man was jailed for five years for indecent assault
after his disabled victim gave evidence to a jury via a TV link from her bed.
The victim, a woman with multiple sclerosis, gave evidence over a live link to
court from a nursing home.

"The
conviction represents the first successful outcome of a case involving the
special measures under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999,"
says Morton.

While
blended solutions have become almost as hyped as e-learning was a few years ago
(see Opinion, page 20), the CPS hopes it has struck the right balance with its
mix of online and classroom-based learning.

So
far, so good, believes Sheelagh Morton.

"This
blended initiative has marked an end to formal legal lectures in a classroom
setting. It has required a fundamental shift in the approach to legal training,
with lawyers using the e-learning to equip themselves with the required
knowledge," she says. "The e-learning enables lawyers to access, research
and update their knowledge of legislative and non-legislative developments at
the right time."

Top
tips for success


Get buy-in from all of your stakeholders


Assess your learners’ readiness for e-learning


Don’t over-complicate your solution

In
summary
Keeping up-to-date with legislation

The
Crown Prosecution Service’s requirement:
To train 4,000
geographically-dispersed lawyers and caseworkers in new legislation regarding
the treatment of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses.

Why?
The Speaking up for Justice report made 78 recommendations which meant there
was a wealth of legislative and non-legislative measures that lawyers and
caseworkers had to be made aware of in a relatively short space of time. The e-learning
programme is a mandatory course to be taken before a three-day classroom
course.

Is
e-learning delivering?
The CPS believes it has saved 4,000 classroom days
but more significant than cost-savings is the fact that successful cases have
already followed the introduction of the legislation.

Comments are closed.