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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

DPP orders release of more information about tax-related prosecutions

06/03/2012

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has ordered that the Crown Prosecution Service should release more information to the public about tax-related prosecutions following investigations by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The release of such information is regulated by the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005. The DPP considered this matter after taking legal advice and in discussion with HMRC. His conclusion is that more information on criminal proceedings can be released as it would promote openness and transparency in our work.

Keir Starmer QC said: "The criminal justice system must be accountable and transparent to inspire public confidence, and it is an important role of the CPS to maintain that public confidence. The public have the right to know how effectively we prosecute tax fraud and to hold us to account.

"I have looked at the law in this area and I am absolutely satisfied that this is in keeping with the meaning of the Act. The law was rightly intended to protect tax payer confidentiality and not about restricting what information can be made available about the progress of prosecutions for tax fraud.

"This is another demonstration of my commitment to openness and accountability. I firmly believe that increased scrutiny of the way we prosecute will only serve to increase our effectiveness and efficiency."

The CPS merged with the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office in January 2010.

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Explanatory Note

We have considered the effect of Section 40 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 on publicising/releasing information in the possession of the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO), which has been incorporated into the CPS. We have concluded that it is permissible to release information (beyond what has been said in court) that will allow for the full and accurate reporting of active criminal proceedings, such as confiscation orders. This view was reached after taking advice from counsel and HMRC on the Act.

S.40 of the Act states:

(1) The Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office may not disclose information which-

(a) is held by the Prosecutions Office in connection with any of its functions, and

(b) relates to a person whose identity is specified in the disclosure or can be deduced from it.

(2) But subsection (1)-

(a) does not apply to a disclosure which-

(i) is made for the purposes of a function of the Prosecutions Office,

In January 2010, the CPS merged with RCPO (the latter continues to exist until abolished by legislation and its functions transferred across to the CPS). The DPP, as head of the merged organisations has now reconsidered this issue and believes that s.51 of the Act enables RCPO to release information beyond that which is stated in court. S.51 states "function" means any power or duty (including a power or duty that is ancillary to another power or duty).The Act does not define ancillary, but guidance can be drawn from s.9 (which applies specifically to HMRC):

(1) The Commissioners may do anything which they think-

(a) necessary or expedient in connection with the exercise of their functions, or

(b) incidental or conducive to the exercise of their functions.

This is a classic public law definition of ancillary and can be applied to s.51's "a power or duty that is ancillary to another power or duty". The effect of this reading of s.51 on s.40 (2) is that RCPO may disclose information that is in fact conducive to the exercise of a function.

One of the functions of RCPO is "the instituting and conduct of criminal proceedings in England and Wales relating to a criminal investigation by the Revenue and Customs" (s.35). The DPP believes that releasing information about the progression of court cases can be conducive to the instituting and conduct of criminal proceedings as it promotes openness and transparency in such cases and enhances public confidence in the CPS's ability to properly and efficiently conduct such proceedings.

Any disclosure will be a reasonable and proper exercise of the power to disclose and consideration will be given to the requirements of the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act.