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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

Decision to Charge

Once the Police have completed their investigations, they will refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on how to proceed. We will then make a decision on whether a suspect should be charged, and what that charge should be.

Find out more about private prosecutions

CPS decides no charges following the death of Jane Hodge

02/02/2010

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against any individual in relation to the death of Jane Hodge on 17 June 2009.

Mrs Hodge, 91, died following an overdose of prescribed drugs at her home in Lewes, East Sussex. Her death was referred to the coroner as a suicide and subsequently Sussex Police launched an investigation into her death.  A file of evidence was submitted to the CPS in August 2009 and the case considered under the Code for Crown Prosecutors.  The  Code requires a prosecutor to first decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with a charge.  If there is, the prosecutor must then consider if it is in the public interest to do so.

Michael Jennings, reviewing lawyer for the CPS Special Crime Division (SCD), said:

"On the 13 or 14 June 2009 Mrs Hodge ingested a large amount of prescription drugs and lapsed into unconsciousness.  She never regained consciousness, dying at home on 17 June.  Over that period four individuals spent varying amounts of time with her. I considered whether they assisted her suicide.

"Mrs Hodge acted independently.  There is no suggestion anyone procured or assisted in the administration of the drugs.  I decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the offence of assisting a suicide.  In the absence of sufficient evidence, there was no need to consider the public interest and interim CPS policy regarding assisted suicide.

"As the emergency services were not called before she died, I considered if other offences had been committed.

"Mrs Hodge had signed an advance decision, sometimes called a living will.  If unable to make her own decisions, with little chance of recovery, she did not wish to be treated, resuscitated or kept alive artifically.  I was satisfied this advance decision was valid and applicable.

"A hospital could have given Mrs Hodge no more care than that she received at home.  None of the individuals concerned did anything to contribute to her death and I concluded no other offence had been committed."

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 gives a statutory basis to advance decisions.  Mentally competent adults can provide directions concerning treatment they may require in the future.  Advance decisions must be respected by medical professionals should a patient become mentally or physically incapacitated.

Ends

  1. The General Medical Council has published guidance for doctors entitled Consent: patients and doctors making decisions together and the Department of Health has issued a document entitled Reference guide to consent for examination or treatment.
  2. Media enquiries to CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8127 or 020 7710 6088.
  3. SCD is responsible for reviewing and prosecuting a range of the most sensitive and specialized cases. Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has decided that all suspected cases of assisted suicide will be referred to SCD
  4. The DPP has published his long term vision for the prosecution service and its role within the wider criminal justice system. It includes modernising the service and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice - read The Public Prosecution Service: Setting the Standard at www.cps.gov.uk/pps
  5. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 14 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are five specialized national divisions: Organised Crime, Special Crime, Counter-Terrorism, Fraud and Revenue & Customs. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,250 people and prosecuted 1,032,598 cases with an overall conviction rate of 86.6% in 2008-2009. Further information can be found on our website: www.cps.gov.uk
  6. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.  This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.  The Protocol is published on our website at: http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/agencies/mediaprotocol.html