Advanced Search

CPS consults on changes to prosecution principles


The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has today launched a 12 week public consultation on important changes to the Code for Crown Prosecutors - the document that sets out the principles which prosecutors must follow when they decide whether or not to prosecute an individual.

The test set out in the Code is applied in every case and it requires prosecutors to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to charge an individual with a criminal offence and whether a prosecution is needed in the public interest.

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said:

"Following the announcement of the merger between the CPS and the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) earlier this year, I have considered further what changes to the Code for Crown Prosecutors should be made in order to ensure that all prosecutors in the new public prosecution service, along with police officers, are making fair and consistent decisions.

"The Code for Crown Prosecutors is fundamental to our role in deciding whether or not someone will be prosecuted.  The decision to prosecute an individual is a serious step with serious implications for victims, witnesses, defendants, and those close to them. The public prosecution service exercises extensive powers on behalf of the public, so it is vital that people know about the principles we apply and that we know what they think of any changes we make to those principles."

The main changes are:

  • Prosecutors will have a discretion to determine whether, where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to prosecute, a prosecution is a proportionate response to the specific offending (paragraph 4.10)
  • Prosecutors will have a discretion to stop a prosecution in the public interest, in exceptional circumstances, before all of the evidence is available (paragraphs 4.16 and 4.17)
  • A fuller section explaining the Threshold Test (section 5)
  • A fuller section explaining the use of out-of-court disposals for both adults and youths (section 7)
  • A fuller explanation of how the public interest is assessed (paragraphs 4.8 and 4.9)
  • Further public interest factors are identified both tending in favour and against prosecution (paragraphs 4.12 and 4.13)

The consultation period ends on 11 January 2010 and a summary of the responses received will be published on the CPS website after that date.


  1. Copies of the draft Code for Crown Prosecutors and consultation document are available at this link:

  2. Further public interest factors for prosecution are at 4.12 n and 4.12 r.
  3. Further public interest factors against are at 4.13 b, d, e, f, k, l, n.
  4. At the end of the consultation period, responses will be considered and the sixth edition of the Code for Crown Prosecutors will be published next spring.
  5. A Consultation on the sixth edition of the Code was conducted earlier this year. Since the close of that consultation, the CPS/RCPO merger has been announced and the Public Prosecution Service - Setting the Standard document has been published.
  6. The Code was last revised in 2004.
  7. The Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for issuing a Code for Crown Prosecutors under section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985.
  8. There have been five editions of the Code.
  9. The principles in the Code must be applied throughout the duration of a prosecution in England and Wales from charge through to conviction or acquittal.
  10. Media enquiries by email : CPS Press Office or by phone: 020 7796 8102, Out of hours pager: 07699 781926.
  11. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority 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
    • Presenting cases at court
  12. 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 four specialised national divisions: Organised Crime, Special Crime, Counter-Terrorism and the Fraud Prosecution Service. 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.

    More about the CPS

  13. 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.

    Publicity and the Criminal Justice System protocol