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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

Support for Victims and Witnesses

Being a victim or a witness to a crime is not easy, but, with your help, we work hard to bring offenders to justice. Throughout the justice process we will support you and treat you with dignity.

The aim of witness care units is to provide a single point of contact for Victims and Witnesses, minimising the stress of attending court and keeping  victims and witnesses up to date with any news in a way that is convenient to them.

Witnesses are essential to successful prosecutions and we are committed to making the process as straightforward as we can.

Read the fact sheet about witness care units

Find out more about being a witness

CPS announces the roll out of two key justice initiatives

01/04/2008

The national roll-out of two new initiatives - pre-trial interviews with witnesses and conditional cautions - has now been completed across England and Wales.

The pre-trial witness initiative enables prosecutors to interview witnesses before a trial begins and under the conditional cautioning scheme, low-level criminal cases can be diverted away from court.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald QC said, "Pre-trial witness interviews represent a fundamental change to our legal system as prosecutors were not allowed to interview witnesses in any cases in England and Wales before these CPS pilots began. I consider witness interviews to be an essential tool to help prosecutors to make better informed decisions about criminal cases so that the right person is brought before the right court for the right offence."

A pre-trial witness interview is used to assess the reliability of a witnesss evidence, to assist the prosecutor in understanding complex evidence and enables prosecutors to explain court process and procedures to witnesses. The initiative was trialled in four CPS areas from January to December 2006, on the basis of which a decision was made to roll out the initiative throughout England and Wales.

The use of conditional cautions is aimed at improving victim satisfaction, reducing re-offending and diverting low-level offenders away from the courts.

Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald QC said: "Conditional cautions make sense. They are intended to be a swift and speedy resolution to appropriate cases, following a consultation with the victim and taking into account their views when considering suitable cautions."

Conditional cautions are used in a wide range of cases, including criminal damage, theft and common assault. Most conditions require the offender to pay compensation. Other conditions have included writing a letter of apology to the victim and taking part in a drug programme. If offenders do not comply with the conditions, they may be prosecuted for the original offence.

    Pre-trial witness interviews

  1. The initial four pilot areas were Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria.
  2. The evaluation report was published today and is available on our website in the Victims and Witnesses section - view Pre-trial witness interviews - Interviewing prosecution witnesses

    Conditional Cautions (data from CPS Management Information Service as at February 2008)

  3. The scheme was implemented by joint CPS/ACPO teams at local and national levels.
  4. A total of 6,397 conditional cautions have been issued since the scheme began rolling out in April 2006.
  5. The majority of conditions, just under 60%, were for compensation to victims. The second most common condition was a letter of apology in 15% of cases followed by participation in a drug intervention programme in just over 10% of cases.
  6. Summary criminal or malicious damage offences, where the value of the damage is less than £500, make up the majority of cases where a conditional caution is used (47%) followed by common assault (11.7%) of cases.
  7. A conditional caution has the effect of suspending the prosecution whilst the offender complies with appropriate conditions. If they successfully complete the conditions the caution stands and no action is taken over the prosecution, however if they do not comply the original prosecution goes ahead and the caution is of no effect.
  8. Conditional cautions may only be used for a limited range of offences as specified by the DPP and only when the offender admits the offence and is willing to comply with certain conditions.
  9. The Prosecutor has to be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to charge the offence, that it is in the public interest to proceed by way of a conditional caution and that the case is appropriate for a conditional cautioning.
  10. Conditional Cautions can work well alongside community and neighbourhood policing schemes and help to increase community and victim confidence in achieving a just and appropriate outcome quickly. Conditions can be:
    • Reparative (such as writing a letter of apology, repairing damage, paying compensation or undertaking unpaid work in the community if public or the wider community are the victims, or mediation between the offender and the victim)
    • Rehabilitative (attendance at drug or alcohol awareness session in an effort to halt the causes of the offending behaviour)
    • Restrictive (not to approach a particular area or person)
  11. The Crown Prosecution Service is the Government Department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution;
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute;
    • Preparing cases for court;
    • Presentation of cases at court;

    The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,400 people and prosecuted 1,091,250 cases with an overall conviction rate of 83.7% in 2006-2007. Further information can be found on this website.

  12. Media enquiries to CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8127.