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The Role of The Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, we are responsible for:

  • advising the police on cases for possible prosecution
  • reviewing cases submitted by the police
  • determining any charges in more serious or complex cases
  • preparing cases for court
  • presenting cases at court

Find out more about the role of the Crown Prosecution Service

Statutory charging to be tested next month

25/02/2004

Duty Prosecutors in Manchester will earn a place in criminal justice history on 1st March when they make the first legally-binding charging decisions.

The lawyers, based at the city's Longsight Police Station, will be testing the requirements of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which shifts the responsibility for key charging decisions from the police to The CPS.

The pathfinder project at Longsight, one of the busiest police stations in the UK, will identify best practice to assist the implementation of the statutory scheme in the 14 priority Areas - those tackling projects such as the Street Crime Initiative.

Although the charging initiative began last summer and more than 300 sites across all Areas are now providing charging guidance to police, the programme - shadow charging - has served as a "dry run" for the statutory scheme.

Under shadow charging, charging decisions have not been legally binding - instead they have made under an agreement between CCPs and Chief Constables.

At Longsight, which handles on average 1,500 prisoners a month, Duty Prosecutors from CPS Greater Manchester Area will be empowered by the Criminal Justice Act to make charging decisions.

They will also provide advice to police to ensure investigations are focused on the appropriate offences and on gathering evidence to support them.

The pathfinder project at Longsight involves two Duty Prosecutors offering face-to-face consultations during office hours.

Out-of-hours, police will be supported by CPS Direct, the telephone service provided by a team of Duty Prosecutors working from home on a shift system.

The operation of the statutory scheme will be governed by special guidance issued by the Director, as permitted under amendments to PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984).

Under the Director's Guidance the police will continue to be responsible for charging those cases which the custody officer considers suitable for early disposal in the magistrates' court as straightforward guilty pleas.

This provision, however, does not permit the police to charge certain offences, including affray, Sections 20 and 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act, deception and handling stolen goods.

In the longer term, prosecutors will make charging decisions in all indictable only, either-way and summary offences, except those excluded in the guidance. These include most motoring offences (except dangerous driving or where a death has resulted) and certain street offences.

The first of the 14 priority Areas to migrate to the statutory scheme will be West Yorkshire, which is scheduled to launch on 7th May.

In a programme that will continue until October, it will be followed by Kent, South Yorkshire, Cleveland, Avon and Somerset, Lancashire, Humberside, Northumbria, Nottinghamshire, London, Greater Manchester, Thames Valley, West Midlands and Merseyside.

Once the 14 have migrated to the statutory scheme, the remaining 28 Areas will follow suit in a phased programme ending in 2005, subject to the availability of funding. By that time, 378 sites across the country will be operating statutory charging.