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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

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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.

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DPP Defends Human Rights Act At Annual Lecture


The Director of Public Prosecutions has mounted a robust defence of the Human Rights Act at the Public Prosecution Service Annual Lecture.

Speaking at the Royal Society of Medicine, in London, on 21 October, Keir Starmer QC said of the rights set out in the Act: "They are basic; they are fundamental; and they are so much part of our way of life that we take them for granted."

Mr Starmer defended the Act as a protector of the rights of victims of crime and said that it was ill-informed to label it a "Criminal's Charter".

The Human Rights Act protects the right to life, freedom from torture and slavery, the right to a fair trial, privacy, freedom of thought and expression, and equal protection of these and other rights under the law.

Mr Starmer said: "If those are some of the rights that attach to the suspect of a crime, let me instantly redress the balance and lay bare the lie that suggests that the Human Rights Act is a "Criminals' Charter".

"Human rights do not mysteriously disappear if one is a victim of a crime. Human rights do not recognise any form of boundary...

"Contrary to what appears to be a widely-held, but ill-informed, view, human rights do not magically appear when a suspect is stopped on the street; or is arrested; or is charged; or is prosecuted; or when they appear in court...

"Now many of the fundamental rights that attach to a suspect - the right to a fair trial; the right not to suffer degrading treatment - are clear and directly applicable. The rights of victims are more subtle, but no less fundamental for that.

"The Human Rights Act recognises a positive obligation on the state to have effective mechanisms in place to protect the lives of those within its borders from the criminal acts of others. This places the police under a positive duty to take reasonable steps to protect potential victims from a real and immediate risk to their lives from criminal activity... [victims] also have the right to an effective investigation.

"These are rights that spring from the Human Rights Act, not rights that somehow conflict with it. And, critically, they are now enforceable in court.

"In addition, it is clear now, and in a way that was less certain ten years ago, that victims have the right to challenge decisions not to prosecute, particularly where they can point to poor decision-making or the inappropriate consideration of irrelevant factors in that process."

Mr Starmer also defended the criminal justice system in its application of human rights.

He said: "I find myself in difficulty when I hear talk of the need to "re-engineer" or "rebalance" the criminal justice system. Such talk usually emerges after a particularly questionable decision which receives undue notoriety usually this has a thread back to the Human Rights Act of how a victim's rights have been trampled on by an almost Orwellian spectre of European-inspired legislation.

"It would be to this country's shame if we lost the clear and basic statement of our citizens' human rights provided by the Human Rights Act on the basis of a fundamentally flawed analysis of their origin and relevance to our society."

Mr Starmer went on to dispel some common myths about the Human Rights Act and the European Convention and said: "A police force unable to circulate a photo of a wanted, dangerous and violent criminal because it might breach his Article 8 rights to privacy? My advice - go ahead - it is essential to protect the public.

"Unelected judges can now tell Parliament that their laws need not be enforced? No - judges cannot strike down legislation.

"Human Rights mean that school teachers cannot enforce discipline at school? No - it is domestic legislation - section 548 of the Education Act 1996 - passed 2 years before the Human Rights Act - that banned corporal punishment in schools. Interestingly enough, it is section 93 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 - passed 8 years after the Human Rights Act - that now allows school teachers to use reasonable force to prevent a pupil from committing an offence."

In addition, the speech outlines:

The clear role of prosecutors in response to the House of Commons Justice Committee's findings in August this year that "There is no clarity about the role of the CPS within the criminal justice system."

The importance of discretion for prosecutors on when and when not to prosecute, and the dangers when such discretion is abused.


  1. Media enquiries by email :CPS Press Office or by phone: 020 7710 8127, Out of hours enquiries, please call: 07699 781926.
  2. The full text of the DPP's speech is available from the CPS press office or from here: The role of the prosecutor in a modern democracy.
  3. The Human Rights Act 1998 further integrated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, compelling public authorities to respect convention rights and allowing the public to have their rights enforced through domestic courts.
  4. The Public Prosecution Service - Setting the Standard document, which outlines the DPP's vision for the role of the merged CPS/RCPO public prosecutor, is available here: The Public Prosecution Service - Setting the Standard
  5. This is the second annual lecture given by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The first was given by Sir Ken Macdonald QC on 20 October 2008.
  6. 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
  7. 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

  8. 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