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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

Speaking to Witnesses at Court

02/02/2017

More than nine out of 10 victims and witnesses are now satisfied with the support provided to them at court by the CPS, following the implementation of a ground-breaking initiative

Since April 2016, the CPS has been rolling out a new nationwide programme in which prosecution staff or advocates provide essential information to witnesses at court in order to assist them in giving their evidence. This rollout was completed across all courts last Autumn.

A survey conducted in all courts in England and Wales, following full rollout, has now shown that 95% of those questioned were satisfied with the support they received.

Additionally, 90% of those who were cross-examined by the defence felt that they were given enough information or support by the CPS to prepare them for the experience. This is a rise from 62% in the 2015 Victims and Witnesses survey.

CPS lead for victims and witnesses, Martin Goldman, said:

"Appearing in court is an inevitably stressful business but if we can help people to feel as comfortable and prepared as possible, justice is also well served by the improved evidence they will provide. These survey results indicate that we are making real progress in this vital area. We must now maintain these levels and identify how we can do even more to support victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system."

Following the 2015 survey, the CPS developed 'Speaking to Witnesses at Court' guidance which set out the best approach to be adopted nationally.

The pre-hearing conversations which are now taking place routinely cover issues such as:

  • Scoping of the witness's particular needs - including any special measures they require
  • Guidance on court procedure.
  • The role of the defence.
  • General advice on giving evidence; such as listening carefully, ensuring they understand each question that is asked and answering truthfully
  • Advice on cross-examination, including the general nature of the defence case
  • Providing updates on progress and any delays

Providing assistance before and at court is especially important where witnesses are vulnerable or likely to be intimidated.

Prosecutors will now consider whether such information should be provided at a pre-trial special measures meeting. This also gives the prosecutor an opportunity to introduce themselves and help the witness to make a properly informed decision about which special measures might assist them to give their best evidence. Particular care is taken to ensure they understand what will happen in court.

 

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. The recent survey, that yielded the 95 per cent result, involved 939 people who were asked for their opinion on the day of their court appearance. It was carried out with the help of the Witness Service in all courts across England and Wales during the week commencing 7 November 2016. The 62 per cent figure is from a national telephone survey conducted in 2015 in which victims and witnesses were asked for their opinions six months after their appearance. While the statistics are not an absolutely direct comparison, we believe they reflect a significant enhancement in the vital area of CPS witness and victim care at court, brought about by the new scheme.
  2. For the latest in breaking news from the CPS Press Office follow @cpsuk on Twitter and visit our official News Brief - blog.cps.gov.uk
  3. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926