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Prosecuting Special Crime

Deaths in custody, allegations against the police, corporate manslaughter, medical manslaughter, serious public corruption, election offences, appeals to the House of Lords and extradition are just some of the types of cases dealt with by specialist Crown Prosecutors in the Special Crime Division.

Find out more about extradition

Find out more about how we prosecute bribery and corruption

Find out how we prosecute election offences

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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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CPS decisions in Operation Sacristy - investigation into Cleveland Police and Cleveland Police Authority


Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "Operation Sacristy was a wide-ranging and detailed investigation into suspected criminal offences in connection with the administration of Cleveland Police and Cleveland Police Authority.

"Following their thorough and professional investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service has received detailed reports and a substantial quantity of evidence from the Operation Sacristy investigation team. It is right that this case was passed to us to determine whether or not criminal charges should be brought and the reports and the evidence underlying them have been considered in great detail by senior lawyers within the Special Crime Division of the CPS, overseen by Malcolm McHaffie, Deputy Head of that division. We have also sought advice from both an experienced junior counsel specialising in fraud and corruption and by Queen's Counsel.

"The allegations related to the procurement process surrounding contracts procured by Cleveland Police and the relationship between the contracted organisations, the police force and police authority; expenses claimed by senior members of Cleveland Police and Police Authority; the remuneration of a senior police officer and redundancy payments made to two individuals. The CPS considered whether or not six suspects should be prosecuted in relation to these allegations, as well as considering the peripheral roles of two further suspects. Three additional suspects are the subject of an ongoing investigation and we have therefore not made any decision in respect of them.

"This case has been reviewed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, which requires that prosecutors consider whether there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and whether or not it would be in the public interest to prosecute.

"A realistic prospect of conviction means that a conviction is more likely than not. In considering whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, the test makes it plain that it is not just the prosecution evidence or approach which should be considered, but also the likely defence case and prosecutors must consider all the evidence carefully. As a matter of law, a prosecution for corruption, fraud or for the criminal offence of misconduct in public office requires more than, for example, poor administration, maladministration or breaches of rules and procedures.

"Having thoroughly reviewed the reports and evidence we have determined that, whatever criticisms may be made about the conduct of the various suspects, including any police discipline findings, the available evidence does not give rise to a realistic prospect of conviction in connection with conduct relating to the administration of Cleveland Police and Cleveland Police Authority. There can therefore be no prosecution of the individuals considered.

  • In relation to the contracts procured by Cleveland Police that were considered by the CPS, record keeping and compliance with procedures was often poor, and we have concluded the evidence does not show the necessary direct causal links between the awarding of contracts (or allegations of advantageous treatment) and any alleged rewards and inducements offered or received. There was also evidence that would clearly undermine the allegations.
  • In relation to the cost of trips undertaken by senior staff, the evidence is not sufficient to prove dishonesty to a criminal standard, which would be required for any prosecution of fraud by abuse of position. There was also insufficient evidence to show a wilful breach of established rules or regulations, which would be required to prosecute for an offence of misconduct in public office.
  • We do not consider that there is sufficient evidence of criminal offending in relation to the remuneration of a senior police officer. The evidence indicates this remuneration was openly supported by members of the police authority.
  • Finally, we have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute two individuals who received redundancy payments from Cleveland Police Authority. It was alleged that these individuals orchestrated increases to their own redundancy payments. The evidence indicates that both individuals acted openly, and there is insufficient evidence to prove either dishonesty or a knowing breach of rules or regulations on the part of the recipients, which would be required for a prosecution.

All of the conduct has been considered collectively as well as on an individual basis. However, for any prosecution to be brought, including for any potential conspiracy or corruption offences, there must be sufficient evidence to demonstrate clear, defined instances of criminality. For the reasons set out above, we do not consider this to be the case and have advised the police that no further action should be taken in relation to the matters set out above either individually or collectively.

"In relation to two relatively minor allegations over expenses the CPS has also decided that a prosecution should not take place."


Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are four national casework divisions: Central Fraud, Welfare Rural & Health, Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. A 'virtual' 14th Area is CPS Direct which provides charging decisions to all police forces and other investigators across England and Wales - it operates twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  3. At 31 March 2013 we employed a workforce of approximately 6840 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2350 prosecutors and 4110 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:
  4. 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. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.