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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

Crown Prosecution Service re-review of Operation Elveden - statement from the Director of Public Prosecutions

17/04/2015

Operation Elveden is a Metropolitan Police Service investigation that revealed the payments made to corrupt public officials by journalists for information. It followed two parliamentary committees and the Leveson Inquiry which revealed serious questions over the techniques used by some which may have amounted to systematic and flagrant breaches of the law. The range and circumstance of this activity was of a scale not previously encountered by police or CPS.

In these circumstances the police inquiry was inevitable as was the subsequent duty on prosecutors to decide if the evidence was sufficient to prosecute. The CPS made every effort to provide advice on charges as quickly as possible, and the majority of the decisions made by the CPS in relation to these cases were completed within three months of a file being received from the Metropolitan Police.

The importance of a free press is paramount in any democracy and the prosecutions against the journalists involved were considered very carefully. However, the investigation revealed widespread payments to corrupt officials, and in some cases the CPS authorised prosecutions of journalists.

This was not an investigation into whistle blowers acting to expose matters of public importance out of a sense of civic duty - the 21 convictions of public officials to date show that these were the actions of corrupt individuals motivated by greed and self-interest.

The investigation revealed corruption in areas where the public should generally expect confidentiality. For example, police officers trusted with safeguarding public safety; prison officials tasked with oversight of some of society's most vulnerable and most dangerous inmates; soldiers and more.

It is of the utmost importance that the incorruptibility of the public service and the integrity of our police, prisons and army, in serving the public, is protected by the law and the convictions to date are testament to that. In total, the CPS has properly brought 28 prosecutions against public officials who have received payments totalling around £180,000.

As well as the prosecutions brought against journalists, it should also be noted that in relation to alleged corrupt payments the CPS has also decided it was not appropriate to prosecute 14 journalists.

It is normal that the law and its application develops as cases are brought before the courts - it was only a few years ago that the Court of Appeal ruled to narrow the definition of what a public official was, and the latest ruling on the application of the offence of Misconduct in Public Office is another example of the evolution of the law in our legal system. The use of Misconduct in Public Office in these unique circumstances was a new use of a complicated area of the law.

We have now received the Court of Appeal judgment in R v ABC, EFG, IJK; R v Sabey [2015] EWCA Crim 539, which we have carefully considered in light of our experience of prosecuting these cases and the verdicts that have sometimes been delivered after many hours of careful deliberations, for which we thank the juries.

We have promptly reviewed all the cases within Operation Elveden. At the same time, we have updated our guidance in respect of these cases where Misconduct in Public Office is the substantive offence.

This guidance has been published today and supplements the existing CPS Guidelines for Prosecutors on Assessing the Public Interest in Cases Affecting the Media - guidance which was consulted on publicly.

The Court of Appeal judgment emphasised the high threshold of seriousness required by the offence of Misconduct in Public Office. It also said that more consideration should be given to the potential harm, or lack of, to the public interest in the disclosure of information, as opposed to relying on the strong benefit to the public interest in any resulting story. This may result in different considerations when applied to public officials and journalists, whose responsibilities and motivations in the positions they hold are relevant to the overall seriousness of offending.

As this guidance makes clear, there is strong public interest in maintaining impartial and incorrupt public services. The guidance therefore states that public officials who flagrantly break the trust of the public for payments do cause real harm to the public interest. Provided there is sufficient evidence to do so, prosecution in such circumstances would therefore almost always be in the public interest.

As the guidance states, sustained corruption of police officers is a particularly grave matter. Police officers exercise significant powers in respect of ordinary citizens, and they have access to confidential databases containing the details of victims and witnesses. Where a journalist is engaged in such corrupt relationships there would also be a high public interest in seeking prosecution.

Regarding the payment of other public officials by journalists, the guidance recognises that the harm to the public interest in the corrupt payments and the lack of harm caused by any resulting stories may be finely balanced and the prosecution of journalists in these circumstances may not always be in the public interest.

Nothing in this statement should be taken as an indication that payment to a public official by a journalist is acceptable behaviour or immune from prosecution - any case referred to us for consideration of criminal charges will be very carefully considered on its own facts and merits in accordance with published guidance.

This new guidance only relates to the offence of Misconduct in Public Office arising from Operation Elveden. The introduction of new offences under the Bribery Act and the new offence of statutory police corruption means different considerations may apply to similar cases in future. We will be considering specific guidance in relation to use of the Bribery Act in these circumstances in the near future, on which we intend to consult publicly.

There is, at present, one further case arising from Operation Elveden that awaits a charging decision, and four investigative advice files have also been passed to the CPS. These will be considered in accordance with the updated guidance published today.

Decisions on current cases are as follows:

Greig Box-Turnbull, Desra Reilly, Grant Pizzey: trial adjourned to 27 April 2015

Proceeding against public official Pizzey and partner Reilly, public interest NFAs (No Further Action) on journalist Box-Turnbull

This case has been reviewed in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgment and new CPS Legal Guidance.

We are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and have concluded it is in the public interest to proceed to trial for Grant Pizzey and Desra Reilly.

We have concluded that in respect of Greig Box-Turnbull, there is a fine balance between the harm caused by alleged payments to a prison officer, and the lack of harm to the public interest in publishing these stories. In these circumstances, we believe it is not in the public interest to prosecute and as a result we are offering no evidence in respect of his case.

Mr Box-Turnbull faced a similar charge in respect of alleged payments for stories to a second prison officer. Similar, but not identical, considerations, apply to Mr Box-Turnbull's alleged involvement and accordingly the prosecution offer no evidence for that second charge in respect of Mr Box-Turnbull, having concluded it is not in the public interest to prosecute.

Robert Norman & Stephen Moyes: trial due to start 11 May 2015

Proceeding against public official Norman, public interest NFA on journalist Moyes

This case has been reviewed in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgment and new CPS Legal Guidance.

We are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and have concluded it is in the public interest to proceed to trial against Robert Norman. This will start on 11 May 2015.

We have concluded that in respect of Stephen Moyes, there is a fine balance between the harm caused by alleged payments to a prison officer, and the lack of harm to the public interest in the publishing of the stories about matters at Belmarsh prison. In these circumstances, we believe it is not in the public interest to prosecute Mr Moyes, and as a result we are offering no evidence in respect of his case.

Ryan Sabey and Paul Brunt: convicted 19 Feb 2015, appealing conviction

Proceeding against public official Brunt, public interest NFA on journalist Sabey

This case has been reviewed in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgment and new CPS Legal Guidance.

We are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and have concluded it is in the public interest to proceed to trial against Paul Brunt.

We have concluded that in respect of Ryan Sabey, there is a fine balance between the harm caused by alleged payments to a soldier in the Army, and the lack of harm to the public interest in the publishing of the stories themselves. In these circumstances, we believe it is not in the public interest to prosecute and accordingly we have decided not to seek a retrial for Mr Sabey.

Vince Soodin: retrial due to start 20 April 2015

Public interest NFA on journalist Soodin, public official Bowes pleaded guilty

This case has been reviewed in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgment and new CPS Legal Guidance.

We have concluded that there remains a realistic prospect of conviction in respect of Vince Soodin. We have also reviewed whether it remains in the public interest to retry Mr Soodin for this offence.

Taking into account a number of circumstances, including the single, one-off nature of the offence and the time lapse since the alleged offending, we do not now believe it is in the public interest to continue with this case, and accordingly we offer no evidence.

Clive Goodman and Andrew Coulson: retrial due to start 29 June 2015

Public interest NFAs on journalists Goodman and Coulson

This case has been reviewed in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgment and new CPS Legal Guidance.

We have concluded that there remains a realistic prospect of conviction in respect of Clive Goodman and Andrew Coulson. The CPS has also reviewed the case to determine whether it is still in the public interest to prosecute both defendants.

Taking into account a number of circumstances, including the custodial sentences which have already been served by the defendants and the time since the alleged offending, we have concluded that there is no longer a public interest in prosecuting both defendants and accordingly, we offer no evidence.

Anthony France: trial due to start 11 May 2015

Proceeding against journalist France

This case has been reviewed in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgment and new CPS Legal Guidance.

We have reconsidered the evidence in relation to Anthony France and have concluded that there remains sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest that we should proceed to trial against Mr France. This trial will start on 11 May 2015.

Kenneth and Karen Hall: trial due to start 26 May 2015

Proceeding against public officials Kenneth and Karen Hall, original journalist public interest NFA stands

This case has been reviewed in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgment and new CPS Legal Guidance.

We have reconsidered the evidence in relation to Kenneth and Karen Hall and have concluded there remains sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to continue proceeding with the case against both defendants. This trial will proceed on 26 May 2015.

Alan Hagan and News of the World journalist: trial adjourned to 18 May 2015

Proceeding against public official Hagan, public interest NFA on a News of the World journalist

This case has been reviewed in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgment and new CPS Legal Guidance.

We are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and have concluded it is in the public interest to proceed to trial against Alan Hagan.

We have concluded that in respect of the News of the World journalist, there is a fine balance between the harm caused by alleged payment to a public official, and the lack of harm to the public interest in the publishing of the stories themselves. In these circumstances, we believe it is not in the public interest to prosecute and accordingly we do not intend to proceed against the News of the World journalist.

Jamie Pyatt, Chris Pharo, Ben O'Driscoll and Graham Dudman: retrial 21 September 2015

Proceeding against journalists Pyatt and Pharo, public interest NFAs on journalists O'Driscoll and Dudman

This case has been reviewed in light of the recent Court of Appeal judgment and new CPS Legal Guidance.

We are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and have concluded it is in the public interest to proceed to trial against Jamie Pyatt and Chris Pharo.

We have reconsidered the evidence in respect of Ben O'Driscoll and Graham Dudman and have concluded that it is not in the public interest to prosecute. As a result we are offering no evidence in respect of their case.

Additional information included for completeness - this decision was made in light of the Court of Appeal judgment referenced above, but was before the fuller review took place:

News of the World journalist, Lynn Gaffney and Scott Chapman

Public interest NFAs on News of the World journalist and Gaffney, proceeding against public official Chapman

The decisions of whether or not to seek a retrial of a News of the World journalist, a public official Scott Chapman and his ex-partner Lynn Gaffney were taken prior to the wider review of all outstanding Operation Elveden cases, and before the resulting new guidance on these cases had been written.

In respect of the News of the World journalist and Lynn Gaffney, in light of the sentences already served, we considered it was no longer in the public interest to prosecute.

With regards to Scott Chapman, the CPS is satisfied that there remains sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it remains in the public interest to prosecute and we will be proceeding to re-trial.

Note:

The CPS's function is not to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether it is appropriate to present charges for the criminal court to consider. The CPS assessment of any case is not in any sense a finding of, or implication of, any guilt or criminal conduct. It is not a finding of fact, which can only be made by a court, but rather an assessment of what it might be possible to prove to a court, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

This assessment is based on the evidence available arising out of the police investigation and not on the evidence that is likely to be gathered by the defence, and likely to be used to test the prosecution evidence. The CPS charging decision is therefore necessarily an assessment on the basis of the evidence that is available to the CPS at the time the decision is made.

CPS prosecutors must also keep every case under review, so that they take account of any change in circumstances that occurs as the case develops, including what becomes known of the defence case. If appropriate, the CPS may change the charges or stop a case. 

Ends

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 three national casework divisions: Specialist Fraud (formerly Central Fraud and Welfare, Rural & Health Divisions), Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. CPS Direct is a 'virtual' 14th Area 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 2014 we employed a workforce of approximately 6237 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2226 prosecutors and 3629 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:  www.cps.gov.uk.
  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.