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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
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  • presenting cases at court

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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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Under the spotlight: perverting the course of justice and wasting police time in cases involving allegedly false rape and domestic violence allegations

13/03/2013

The first ever study by the Crown Prosecution Service into so-called false allegations of rape and domestic violence is being published today by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The report, which examines a 17-month period, shows that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are perhaps more rare than previously thought, and that in only a very small number of cases was it considered that there was sufficient evidence and that it was in the public interest to prosecute a person suspected of making a false allegation of rape or domestic violence.

This publication is part of a wider programme of work for the CPS to improve its handling of cases involving violence against women and girls.

Keir Starmer QC said: "This is a trailblazing report. It's the first time we have clear evidence on the prosecution of this important issue. This report shows that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are very rare, but that they are very serious where they do exist.  My view is that this shows that the CPS guidance for prosecutors on this issue is broadly in the right place. This report will therefore help us to ensure that we are able to make consistent and sound decisions in these difficult cases."

Mr Starmer continued: "Victims of rape and domestic violence must not be deterred from reporting the abuse they have suffered. In recent years we have worked hard to dispel the damaging myths and stereotypes that are associated with these cases. One such misplaced belief is that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are rife. This report presents a more accurate picture.

"Where false allegations of rape and domestic violence do occur however, they are serious: reputations can be ruined and lives can be devastated as a result. Such cases will be dealt with robustly and those falsely accused should feel confident that the criminal justice system will prosecute these cases wherever there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so."

The report has shed light on the context in which people make false allegations. Mr Starmer added: "The report shows that a significant number of these cases involved young, often vulnerable people, and sometimes even children. Around half of the cases involved people aged 21 and under, and some involved people with mental health difficulties. From the cases we have analysed, the indication is that it is therefore extremely rare that a suspect deliberately makes a false allegation of rape or domestic violence purely out of malice. It is within this context that the issue should be viewed, so that myths and stereotypes around these cases are not able to take hold."

During the period covered by the report, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape but only 35 for making false allegations of rape. There were 111,891 prosecutions for domestic violence, but only six for making false allegations of domestic violence. There were a further three people charged with making false allegations of both rape and domestic violence. [See 'Notes to Editors' (2)]

The DPP published new legal guidance on perverting the course of justice in July 2011 and, for a period of 17 months, required CPS areas to refer all cases involving an allegedly false allegation of rape, domestic violence or both to him to consider. 

The study comes after the CPS and ACPO announced a package of radical measures to transform the way the criminal justice system tackles child sexual abuse. Mr Starmer has called for a national consensus on the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences.

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. The full report, "Under the spotlight: perverting the course of justice and wasting police time in cases involving allegedly false rape and domestic violence allegations", is available to download from the CPS website.
  2. There is a possibility that a small number of these original allegations were made before January 2011
  3. In the last year (2011-12) the conviction rate for cases involving violence against women and girls rose to 73%, delivering the lowest attrition rates ever recorded.
  4. The CPS guidance on perverting the course of justice is available on the CPS website
  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. 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.
  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.