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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

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 decision - PC Harrington faces ABH charge


Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London, said: "In February this year the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to charge PC Joseph Harrington in relation to an alleged assault on a young man in custody in August 2011.

"The incident was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, with CPS involvement beginning in November 2011. The IPCC gave summaries of interviews to the CPS in February, and in the same month the CPS decided that there was no realistic prospect of conviction in the matter.

"Grace Ononiwu, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London, directed in April that there should be a new review of this case after concerns were raised with CPS London.

"That review is now complete and I have decided that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction to charge PC Harrington with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, contrary to section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

"Occasionally, a new look at a prosecution decision shows that the wrong view of the evidence was taken. That is regrettable. In this case, the conclusion originally reached was not tenable on the available evidence.

"When a review shows a previous decision not to prosecute is clearly wrong, it is open to the CPS to rectify that error by reconsidering the prosecution decision at Chief Crown Prosecutor level. As Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, I have taken the decision in this case that not only is there sufficient evidence to provide for a realistic prospect of conviction, and that a prosecution is required in the public interest, but that a prosecution is necessary in order to maintain confidence in the criminal justice system. That is the test I must apply under the Code for Crown Prosecutors when reinstituting a prosecution. It is clear that the allegation of using excessive force on a handcuffed 15 year old in custody is a serious matter.

"Accordingly I have advised the IPCC to summons PC Harrington.

"I hope the seriousness with which the CPS has taken this matter gives the public confidence that we are an organisation which will review our decisions, openly accept when we've got them wrong and then take the correct course of action.

"All parties have now been informed. Can I please remind all concerned that PC Harrington is to be prosecuted for a criminal offence and has a right to a fair trial. It is very important that nothing is said, or reported, which could prejudice his trial. Proceedings are now active."