CPS consults on changes to prosecution principles


The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has launched a 10 week public consultation on important changes to the Code for Crown Prosecutors - the document that sets out the principles which prosecutors must follow when they decide whether or not to prosecute.

The test set out in the Code is applied in every case and it requires prosecutors to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to charge an individual with a criminal offence and whether a prosecution is needed in the public interest.

Chief Crown Prosecutor for South Yorkshire Naheed Hussain said: "The Code for Crown Prosecutors is fundamental to our role in deciding whether or not someone will be prosecuted.  The decision to prosecute an individual is a serious step which will change the life of the victim, witness and defendant forever. These are not decisions we take lightly.

"Every single prosecution, or decision not to prosecute, is borne out of the principles detailed in this document. These principles provide prosecutors with extensive powers which are exercised on behalf of the public. Therefore it is essential that the public understand these principles and let us know what they think about them.

"A lot of the changes in the document relate to the public interest test which impacts specifically impacts on Doncaster.

In Doncaster, the CPS is piloting the Community Prosecutor approach which requires lawyers to gather information from local communities to ensure their decisions on whether a prosecution is in the public interest is informed, in part, by community opinion. Lawyers will also be involved in problem solving local issues.

Naheed explained: "Just last week I attended a community meeting with residents in the town centre area to hear first hand how crime affects local people and ensure that those views are shared with lawyers across South Yorkshire.

"The community prosecutor approach has already proved successful after a local lawyer attended a community meeting where residents expressed concern about prostitution and how this was being addressed locally. They felt bail conditions given to prostitutes were not effective as they were back out on the streets the same day.

"The following week the same lawyer was in court dealing with a prostitution case and when bail conditions were considered he was able to feed back the views of residents to the court. The defendant was given conditions which effectively prevented her from returning to the area."

The main changes are:

  • Prosecutors will have a discretion to determine whether, where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to prosecute, a prosecution is a proportionate response to the specific offending (paragraph 4.10)
  • Prosecutors will have a discretion to stop a prosecution in the public interest, in exceptional circumstances, before all of the evidence is available (paragraphs 4.16 and 4.17)
  • A fuller section explaining the Threshold Test (section 5)
  • A fuller section explaining the use of out-of-court disposals for both adults and youths (section 7)
  • A fuller explanation of how the public interest is assessed (paragraphs 4.8 and 4.9)
    Further public interest factors are identified both tending in favour and against prosecution (paragraphs 4.12 and 4.13)

The consultation period ends on 11 January 2010 and a summary of the responses received will be published on the CPS website after that date.