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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

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DPP launches support package for victims


The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has today launched a wide ranging support package for victims of crime. Dedicated units of trained staff are now up and running across England and Wales and the final Victims' Right to Review scheme is being published alongside almost a year of statistics from the interim scheme, launched last June.

Alison Saunders said: "There has been a lot of focus on victims of sexual offences in recent months but all crimes - from burglary and muggings to harassment and fraud - undermine confidence, create fear and damage the fabric of our society. My focus is improving our service to anyone who has suffered at the hands of criminals."

More than 70 Victim Liaison Officers (VLOs) will staff units across England and Wales, with around 80 completing training with experts from the charity, Victim Support, in handling the specific needs of victims of crime. Staff have also been provided with disability awareness training by the Business Disability Forum.

Victim Liason Units were piloted in three CPS Areas from March 2014 with feedback from victims on the amount of information they wanted to receive on their cases. The CPS will now always offer a meeting to victims and their families when we stop or change the charges in cases involving the following offence types: homicide cases; sexual offences; child abuse cases; offences aggravated by hostility based on disability; racially/religiously aggravated offences; cases with a homophobic, transphobic or sexual orientation element; and offences motivated by hostility based on age.

Alison Saunders continued: "On my first day as DPP, I spoke of my intention to set up Victim Liaison Units across the CPS and I am really pleased to announce this roll-out after a successful pilot. These specialist staff are receiving bespoke training from one of the charities that know victims best - the charity Victim Support whose professionalism I witnessed when I visited their centre last year. I hope people will see this collaboration as a sign of a modern and responsive prosecution service."

The Victims' Right to Review (VRR) Scheme was first launched in June 2013 and details of the final scheme have today been published on the CPS website. Between 5 June 2013 and 31 March 2014, the CPS reviewed 1,186 cases and decisions in 1,024 of those cases were found to be the right one. In total, 162 decisions have been overturned, which accounts for 0.14 % of all qualifying decisions finalised in the period. A breakdown of the reviews by offence category has today been published on the CPS website.

The DPP has also now committed to ensuring that CPS policy and guidance will be updated wherever necessary due to any issues identified through the VRR process.

The Director said: "It is hard to think of a scheme that gives more power to victims than the Victims' Right to Review. Having the right to challenge our work and hold us to account is fundamental to instilling greater confidence among victims. We made 113,952 qualifying decisions during the period covered by today's figures and so less than 0.14% of those decisions have been overturned. This should be seen as a sign of confidence in our decision making and also our ability to act swiftly where mistakes may have been made."

The CPS is today also publishing Complaints and Community Engagement Standards for all staff. They set out clear benchmarks of quality by which our performance on handling complaints and engaging with the wider community can be measured by victims and the wider public. The standards will be subject to a public consultation.

Alison Saunders concluded: "The work we are setting out today is a major step forward in addressing the balance of power towards the victim within criminal justice. Empowering and supporting victims of crime is an absolute priority for me as DPP and was the very reason I became a prosecutor more than 25 years ago. The right to review and specialist Victim Liaison Officers will make a very real and tangible difference to those we serve."

The Attorney General, the Rt  Hon Jeremy Wright MP, said: "Public confidence in the criminal justice system is the critical factor in helping victims of crime to come forward. Victims need to know that they will be listened to, taken seriously and supported so that justice can be done. That's why the package of measures that the Director of Public Prosecutions has announced today is so significant. It is a clear statement that the prosecution will put victims first, and will make a real difference to the way that people are supported through the justice process."

Victims' Commissioner Baroness Newlove, who welcomed the announcement, said: "Victims need to be listened to and have open and honest conversations about what is happening to them - I welcome the efforts of the CPS to do this in a compassionate, clear and timely way. The right to review is a crucial and an essential tool for those who want to challenge a court decision and hold the CPS to account - which is why it is so important to get it right. I will be looking very closely at how both are being delivered to ensure they are in compliance with the Victims' Code and are delivered at a standard that victims deserve."


Notes to Editors

  1. Victim Liaison Units: Correspondence with victims across England and Wales will be handled by dedicated teams of specifically trained CPS staff, available on phone and email to victims whose cases are being handled by the CPS. Known as Victim Liaison Officers, these staff will ensure that openness and empathy is at the heart of all CPS correspondence with victims and that, for the first time, victims have nominated contacts based locally to them.
  2. VLUs can handle around 6,000 pieces of correspondence per month. VLOs will provide victims with high quality, timely, effective and empathetic communications and play a crucial role in driving up standards within the CPS.
  3. The VLU pilot found that an initial communication informing victims of the CPS decision accompanied by brief reasons, with an invitation to the victim to contact the CPS for more detailed reasoning if required, gave a better service to victims. Correspondence will also include details of the Victims' Right to Review Scheme. Where there is a pre-existing relationship between the victim and the prosecutor built during the case, for offences such as homicide and sexual assault, bespoke communication will be used.
  4. Victims' Right to Review Scheme: For the first time, victims of crime can exercise their rights to challenge decisions through a formal, straightforward and accessible system. Qualifying cases include where the CPS decides not to prosecute, decides to discontinue all charges involving the victim or offer no evidence, thereby terminating a prosecution. This scheme was initially set up in June 2013 and was subject to a public consultation. The DPP is today publishing the outcome of our first year of reviews, including a break down by offence category (see link above).
  5. The summary of consultation responses and details of the final scheme can be found on this website.
  6. The VRR consultation process largely confirmed that the proposed approach set out last June was the right one. However, the refreshed guidelines provide additional explanation and clarity and make it clear that we are committed to ensuring that, where lessons can be learned as a result of a VRR case, we will make the necessary changes to guidance or policy to reduce the likelihood of the situation arising again. Furthermore, we have extended the methods by which victims can contact us; in addition to email, letter and phone handled by VLUs, victims will soon be able to use an online portal to log requests for review. A leaflet has also been developed which will accompany all initial communication with victims
  7. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  8. 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.
  9. 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:
  10. 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.