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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 responses to proposed new guidance on driving offences

27/09/2012

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, has today launched a public consultation on guidance about the most serious driving offences, including death by careless or dangerous driving.

The CPS has decided that the current guidance should be updated and that this review should be informed by a wider public consultation, which is launched today.

Mr Starmer said: "The issues that arise for prosecutors when deciding to charge someone with a very serious driving offence - particularly where there has been a fatality - are inevitably difficult and sensitive.

"This revised guidance makes amendments to the approach prosecutors should take in so-called nearest and dearest cases and to cases involving emergency drivers responding to emergency calls."

'Nearest and dearest' cases

The amended guidance indicates that it may not always be in the public interest to prosecute where the suspect has lost a loved one as a result of a fatal collision where they are the driver.

Keir Starmer QC said: "Where someone has killed a loved one as a result of their driving, the decision over whether to prosecute can be extremely challenging; for example where a parent's careless or dangerous driving has led to the loss of their own child, which will inevitably bring with it enormous grief and terrible bereavement. The amended guidance advises prosecutors that a prosecution may not be in the public interest in such cases."

"This circumstance must, of course, be balanced against the need to ensure the safety of other road users - and if there is evidence to suggest that an individual presents a continuing danger to other road users then the proper course may well be to prosecute on public interest grounds once there is sufficient evidence to do so."

Cases involving emergency drivers

The amended guidance advises prosecutors that when a member of the emergency services commits an offence while responding to an emergency call, discretion should be used in deciding whether or not a prosecution is needed in the public interest. Under the amended guidance, a prosecution is very unlikely to be appropriate in cases of genuine emergency unless the driving is dangerous or the evidence indicates a high degree of culpability. This strengthens the position for emergency drivers; previously the advice was that it was merely "unlikely" to be in the public interest to prosecute.

Mr Starmer said: "Those who work in the emergency services need to know that they can respond to an emergency call without fear of prosecution for doing their job. This is not a licence for emergency workers to act with immunity from prosecution, but it is important to appreciate that police officers, ambulance drivers and fire-fighters sometimes need to drive in a manner which would be not be considered acceptable by other drivers. Prosecutors are advised that a criminal prosecution should be very unlikely, and that they should consider the nature of the particular emergency when considering if a prosecution is in the public interest.  It's also, of course, important that members of the public have confidence that the emergency services are able to do their important work."

"I hope people will take part in the consultation and let us know what they think about the proposed changes."

The consultation closes on 8 November 2012.

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. You can read about the public consultation on driving offences elsewhere on this website.
  2. As with all cases, CPS prosecutors decide cases in accordance with the Code of Crown Prosecutors. The Code is the overarching document that all prosecutors follow in deciding whether or not a suspect should be charged.
  3. The CPS cannot give immunity from prosecution for anyone, nor change the law, but this guidance informs a prosecutor's decision.
  4. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  5. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  6. 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. In 2011-2012, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health (DoH) prosecution functions were transferred to the CPS. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.