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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

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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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DPP invites defence to appeal convictions of Drax Power Station protestors


The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has invited 29 individuals convicted following the Drax Power Station protest in 2008 to appeal against their convictions. This protest involved the former undercover officer Mark Kennedy.

Mr Starmer has also asked the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to examine records of all operations involving Mark Kennedy that led to convictions.

He has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with police and other investigative agencies that will ensure information about undercover officers is shared between investigators and prosecutors and disclosed to the defence when required in future cases.

Mr Starmer said: "As a result of concerns raised with me about the convictions of 29 individuals for offences committed during a protest near Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire in 2008, I ordered a review of the case by a senior CPS lawyer with no prior involvement in the case and asked Brian Altman QC, First Senior Treasury Counsel, to advise on the safety of the convictions.

"Having considered the conclusion of that review carefully, I have decided that the safety of the convictions should be considered by the Court of Appeal. That is because it appears to me that a senior CPS lawyer, who has since left the organisation, may not have complied fully with disclosure obligations in this case.

"The prosecution cannot lodge an appeal in these circumstances, so I have taken the unusual step of writing to the legal representative of those convicted, inviting them to appeal on the basis of non-disclosure of material relating to the activities of the former undercover officer, Mark Kennedy. The safety of the convictions is a matter that can only be dealt with by the Court of Appeal.

"Because I have real concerns about any prosecutions involving Mark Kennedy, in April I asked the Metropolitan Police Service to examine their records relating to Mr Kennedy's deployment to confirm that the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, which sets out disclosure obligations, was adhered to.

"The MPS has agreed to that request and is currently engaged in that exercise. This is a task that can only be carried out by the police because they hold the relevant records, but should any issues arise in cases prosecuted by the CPS, I will ensure those cases are reviewed by a senior CPS lawyer.

"More generally, I have asked Sue Hemming, the head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, to work with our Complex Casework Unit Heads to identify, from our available records, whether there are any further cases involving undercover officers that might need to be examined.

"What happened in cases involving Mark Kennedy cannot be allowed to happen again. I have therefore negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding between ACPO, SOCA and HMRC and the CPS setting out in clear terms the approach to be followed in criminal cases involving undercover officers where it is essential that there is early, frank and regular liaison between investigating officers and prosecutors.

"In addition, I have put in place mandatory training for all senior CPS staff who supervise prosecutions involving undercover officers. That training commenced in January this year and is ongoing."


Notes to Editors

  1. The defendants were charged with obstructing engines or carriages on railways, an offence under section 36 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861.
  2. 22 of the 29 individuals were convicted on 3 July 2009 at Leeds Crown Court after trial. The remaining seven pleaded guilty on different dates: five on 29 June 2009, one on 3 July 2009 and one on 4 September 2009.
  3. The legal representative of the defendants raised their concerns with the DPP in a letter on 17 August 2011. The case was then reviewed by a senior CPS lawyer, who reported her findings to the DPP on 12 January 2012. Brian Altman QC, First Senior Treasury Counsel, was then instructed to review the case. He provided his advice to the DPP on 3 April 2012.
  4. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Keir Starmer QC, Sir Hugh Orde OBE QPM (Association of Chief Police Officers), Trevor Pearce QPM (Serious Organised Crime Agency) and Donald Toon (HM Revenue & Customs) in June 2012 and is now in force.
  5. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  6. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  7. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Division, Special Crime and Counter Terrorism, and Organised Crime. From 1 September 2011, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) prosecution function was transferred to the CPS.  A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  8. In 2010-2011 the CPS employed around 7,745 people and prosecuted 957,881 cases with 116,898 of these in the Crown Court, and the remaining 840,983 in the magistrates' courts. Of those we prosecuted, 93,106 defendants were convicted in the Crown Court and 727,491 in the magistrates' courts. In total 86% of cases prosecuted resulted in a conviction. Further information can be found on the CPS website.
  9. 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.