Working in the legal sector: Employee case study
Neil Baskerville describes his job as a criminal justice inspector at Cheshire Police.
What is your role?
My present role is criminal justice inspector, which involves liaising with the courts and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The work involves making sure that the evidence for court cases is prepared correctly.
If case files are not prepared correctly (e.g. the evidence is incorrect or the files are not updated correctly), the consequences are that a prosecution may either fail or not go ahead. If that happened, we would be failing the victim of a crime and there is the possibility of a guilty person not being held to account for their actions.
I work with other legal professionals such as magistrates, prosecutors, defence solicitors, court staff and other agencies involved in the criminal justice system.
I spend approximately half my time as duty officer (overseeing incidents the public ring in about) and the other half of the time completing my role as criminal justice inspector.
Within the geographic area I work in, all the uniformed inspector roles have a buddy. This means that when I am completing my criminal justice role, my buddy will be covering the role of duty officer. This ensures that there is always a designated duty officer on duty.
What do you like about your job?
I initially joined the police service because I liked the variety of work offered, and this is still what I like about it.
I have had a number of roles within the service, including traffic officer. This involved attending serious road traffic accidents, traffic enforcement and education. I also became involved in pursuits and motorway working.
I was then promoted to the rank of sergeant. I became a custody sergeant, authorising detentions as well as looking after and deciding on charges for prisoners.
This is what I mean by the variety: not only from day to day within a role but between roles within the police service. I cannot think of another profession that offers such variety and challenge.
We have officers who work in plain clothes departments, specialist public order units, underwater search, dog handling and CID, to name but a few. The variety of roles make the service a very attractive option.
What’s not so great about it?
Along with many other public bodies, the police is currently experiencing funding cutbacks. This has forced us to look at what we are doing and why we are doing it, while at the same time continuing to manage the expectations of the public. This affects us all. People expect that if they need to call the police, then the police will turn up if required.
I am also aware of the pressures on us to provide value for money, accountability and the overarching need to serve the public of Cheshire.
We are going through a series of reviews. These have led to redundancies for members of our support staff, which has not been pleasant and has resulted in a greater workload for the staff that remain. In my own area, we have had a 33 per cent reduction in the number of uniformed inspectors.
How did you get to where you are?
At school I completed work experience at the local police station. After leaving school I joined the Special Constabulary, which is voluntary and unpaid, fitting this work around my full-time job.
This fuelled my desire to join the police service, which I did at the age of 22.
Following initial training I was posted to Widnes and lived in single accommodation at Widnes police station. I was interested in traffic policing and moved to a post at Wilmslow as a traffic officer.
I studied for the sergeant’s exams when I was about 25. I passed the exams and then waited for a vacancy. The promotions boards at that time took place approximately every 12 months. When promoted I undertook the roles of custody, station and patrols sergeant at various stations within the division. At this time I was 27.
I then studied for and was successful in passing my inspector’s exams. After this I moved to Headquarters and worked within a review department. This involved studying and reporting on all aspects of performance.
I was then promoted to inspector at Macclesfield and Wilmslow. I have worked as a response inspector, HR inspector and sector inspector (now called neighbourhood inspector).
I am also a divisional representative for the Police Federation, which is a staff association representing the interests of police officers.
What do you want to do next?
I would like to undertake the role of staff officer to the chief constable. This would provide a fantastic insight into both my own force and also the police nationally.
As I have predominantly remained within an operational role, the role of force incident manager is also a possibility for the future, as is taking a fuller role within the Police Federation.
What advice would you give young people thinking of doing your job in the future?
Each force has its own recruitment timescales. Cheshire police are having one intake this year and one next year so competition is very high. They are always heavily oversubscribed, as are other police forces within the country when they recruit.
I would advise anyone interested in joining to make sure it’s the career they really want. It’s one thing to watch officers on the TV patrolling through the night or arresting a violent thug and quite another to actually be called upon to do it.
You could volunteer for the Special Constabulary or as a police community support officer (PCSO), working alongside the police in a highly visible public-facing role.
Take time to ask serving officers about the reality of the job: what it offers as well as the challenges, such as restrictions on your private life.
If you are leaving school, look at what additional life experience you can get before you apply.
Remember that members of the public will look to you for advice and guidance. You need to be able to demonstrate that you can make sound decisions and back up your decisions with a sound rationale. For example, if you decide to close a road after an accident, you will need to justify why you have done this. During training you act out scenarios and your classmates mark your actions and decisions.
You need to give evidence of roles you have undertaken in areas other than school and be able to demonstrate that you possess the qualities needed, both in practical situations and during interview.
You need to be able to handle situations with all types of people: those who are drunk, those who have mental health issues, young people and others. Good communication skills are probably the most essential part of practical policing.
You should look for opportunities that will set you apart. You need to provide evidence of responsibility and maturity and your ability to cope with discipline. You also need evidence of your motivation, for example by becoming a cadet.