Advanced Search

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 and ACPO announce charging developments


The Crown Prosecution Service and Association of Chief Police Officers today announced the development of a nationwide programme to roll-out a successful CPS telephone charging advice service for police.

From January the existing CPS Direct service, which provides immediate advice to police when charging suspects out of hours, is being incrementally expanded across England & Wales to operate 24 hours a day. This is part of a commitment to "Modernising Charging" by providing easier access for police to CPS lawyers, and more consistency and efficiency to the charging process.

This will ultimately give all police officers instant access, via phone or secure digital service, to CPS prosecutors when seeking advice and authorisation on less serious charging decisions.

The charging decisions in all serious or complex cases will remain the subject of face to face consultations between police and prosecutors.

At the same time, a pilot scheme to test the return of some charging decisions from the CPS to the police will be implemented.

Under the pilot, which is aimed at streamlining the current charging boundary, charging decisions for less serious cases which can only be heard in the magistrates' courts will be taken by police. The CPS will retain responsibility for charging decisions for more serious offences. A test period of six months will be followed by a thorough review of the impact of the pilot which will consider if a roll-out of these provisions is appropriate.

Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the CPS, said: "We are constantly looking to improve the way we make charging decisions. Under our latest plan, we will be supplying a national 24/7 advice service for the police about charging decisions by rolling out the CPS Direct scheme to all 42 CPS Areas.  The scheme, which is popular with police officers because of the easier access to CPS lawyers it provides, will speed up the process of charging suspects and bringing them to court.

"Additionally, we intend to pilot changes to the current division of charging responsibilities between the police and CPS. There is clear value in CPS lawyers authorising charging in the more serious cases, but we want to test whether some lower level offences may be more effectively dealt with by the police. This is about the CPS and the police working closely together as an effective Prosecution Team to deliver the most efficient and effective criminal justice system that we can. The pilots will be strictly and rigorously tested."

Tim Godwin, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service and Head of ACPO Criminal Justice Business Area, said: "Ready access and referral to CPS prosecutors at any time for volume crime cases enables a charge decision to be obtained earlier than at present. It saves police investigators time and in some instances unnecessary travelling for appointments with a lawyer. As a result it will reduce the need to release suspects on pre-charge bail to return to the police station whilst waiting for the charge decision.

"In conjunction with improved access, we will take responsibility for charging to court some of the low level crimes without the need for referral to the CPS. This will be strictly tested and is a proportionate approach to help focus on more serious case work where lawyer assistance is required.

"Earlier and effective decision making also complements other aspects of the criminal justice reform agenda by bringing offenders to justice quickly and satisfying the needs of victims and witnesses.  In London, the Virtual Courts project being trialed will assist by putting offenders before the courts via a video link within a matter of hours after charge."

These moves follow last year's Review of Policing report by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the 2008 Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary/Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate Joint Thematic Review of the new Charging Arrangements and Jan Berry's interim report on Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing published in February this year.

The pilot areas will be announced in due course.


  1. Media enquiries by email :CPS Press Office or by phone: 020 7710 8127, Out of hours pager: 07699 781926.
  2. CPS Direct was launched as a pilot scheme in September 2003 and has been responsible for providing out of hours charging advice to all police forces across England and Wales since April 2006 as part of the Statutory Charging scheme. It receives more than 3,000 calls a week on average from police officers and has delivered more than 625,000 charging decisions to date. Under the new pilot scheme, CPS Direct will provide charging decisions 24/7 nationwide.
  3. The reports by HMIC/HMCPSI, Sir Ronnie Flanagan and Jan Berry recognised the success of the existing charging scheme and identified ways in which it could be made more efficient. Recommendations included considering whether the police should take responsibility for charging more summary-only offences, allowing the CPS to focus on more serious cases, and streamlining the charging consultation process by expanding CPS Direct.
  4. Discussions are ongoing between the CPS and ACPO to determine which additional offences the police will take responsibility for charging in the pilot areas.
  5. The Statutory Charging scheme was introduced in 2006. It has contributed to the substantial increase in the volume of Crown Court and more serious either-way magistrates' court cases being charged and successfully prosecuted, as well as an increase in the number of guilty pleas.
  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