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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

Vote of confidence in CPS Associate Prosecutors

31/10/2008

As part of its contribution towards a more efficient and effective criminal justice system, the Crown Prosecution Service has further advanced the development of Associate Prosecutors - specially trained lay employees of the CPS who are permitted by law to prosecute a defined range of proceedings in the magistrates' courts.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Associate Prosecutors will shortly be invited to become members of the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX). By signing this document, the CPS and ILEX recognise the importance of independent regulation of CPS Associate Prosecutors and their contribution to the effective operation of the CPS in the magistrates' courts.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald QC, said: "Associate Prosecutors have consistently shown that they are very effective in dealing with straightforward, high volume crime in the magistrates' court, freeing up lawyers to deal with more complex and contentious cases and associated hearings. Recognition by a respected professional body is a vote of confidence in their quality."

President of the Institute of Legal Executives, ILEX Mark Bishop, said: "This is a significant moment for the Institute and its members. Public interest demands that the oversight of those who conduct advocacy in our courts should rest with an independent body and not solely with an employer.

"As an independent body, we are justifiably proud of our reputation for robust regulation and high standards in education and training, enhanced by the establishment of our regulatory company, ILEX Professional Standards. We are delighted to have reached agreement with the CPS to achieve open and transparent standards of competency for Associate Prosecutors to enable them to carry out their roles, and we welcome them into membership of the Institute."

In July 2008, Associate Prosecutor powers were extended, allowing them to deal with a wider range of proceedings in the magistrates' courts. This included authority to conduct committal proceedings, sendings and transfers to the Crown court, and applications for specified preventative civil orders such as ASBOs.

From February 2009, selected and suitably trained Associate Prosecutors in CPS London, Hampshire, North Wales and West Yorkshire will be given extended powers to deal with new categories of proceedings in the magistrates' courts including summary trials in summary only non-imprisonable offences, Special Reasons hearings and contested bind over proceedings.

  1. A photograph of the signing of the MOU is available on request.
  2. Media enquiries to CPS Press Office on 020 7710 6088 and ILEX Press Office +44(0)1234 845713 or email media@ilex.org.uk.
  3. The Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) is the professional representative body for Legal Executive Lawyers and has a membership of 24,000 students and lawyer practitioners. Alongside Barristers and Solicitors, Legal Executive Lawyers are recognised under the Legal Services Act 2007 as qualified Lawyers. Recent developments also mean that Legal Executive lawyers will be eligible for judicial appointment, including eligibility as legal Chairs of tribunals. ILEX provides policy response to Government consultations in order to represent its members and the public interest.
  4. Membership of ILEX will place APs within its regulatory framework and they would be subject to the ILEX code of conduct.
    www.ilex.org.uk/membership/associate_prosecutors.aspx
  5. APs, once they are designated, will qualify for a specific membership category of 'Associate Prosecutor Member' and will be able to progress their ILEX studies if they wish in order to become full members of the Institute.
  6. The AP training programme includes an externally assessed advocacy course, mentoring and a period of observation as well as the AP foundation course.
  7. As of Autumn 2008, there were 450 trained Associate Prosecutors.
  8. Since 1998 Designated Caseworkers (renamed APs in 2008) - specially trained CPS lay staff - have presented some hearings at magistrates' courts. In 2004 their remit was extended to include a wider range of hearings, such as early administrative hearings, cases after a guilty plea where the court has ordered a pre-sentence report and applications for the removal of a driving disqualification. In 2006, their powers were further extended to include bail applications and other Bail Act proceedings, and pre-trial review hearings.
  9. Section 55 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 commenced by Order on 14 July 2008. It amended section 7A of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 allowing Associate Prosecutors to undertake a wider range of hearings in the magistrates' court, including committals, sendings and trials in summary only non-imprisonable offences.
  10. Under the extended contested remit being introduced in 2009, suitably trained Associate Prosecutors will be able to deal with the following new proceeding types:
    • summary trials in summary only non-imprisonable offences;
    • Newton hearings in summary only non-imprisonable offences;
    • Special Reasons hearings;
    • contested specified preventative civil orders; and
    • contested bind over proceedings.
  11. There will continue to be appropriate restrictions on Associate Prosecutors powers, including summary trials in either-way offences and those punishable with a term of imprisonment, contested custody time limit applications and certain proceedings involving youth defendants. Crown Prosecutors will also continue conduct proceedings in which complex technical or legal issues are raised.
  12. 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

    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 85.1% in 2007-2008.

    More about the CPS

    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