Consultation Opens on Code for Crown Prosecutors

19/07/2012

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, has today launched a consultation on a proposed new edition of the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The Code is the overarching document that all prosecutors follow in deciding whether or not a suspect should be charged.

Mr Starmer said: "This version of the Code is intended to help the CPS take a more focused, proportionate and effective approach to bringing criminals to justice. The Code is an important document that governs all prosecution decisions made by police and prosecutors, so I warmly invite everyone interested to respond to the public consultation."

Martin Goldman, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humberside said: "This is a great opportunity for the people of Yorkshire and Humberside to have a say in the decision-making process of the CPS. As local citizens we all have a view on criminal justice and we all want to ensure we have a fair and open system. What better way to achieve that than to contribute your views?

"We now prosecute a more varied range of cases than ever before so it's essential that the CPS works with people across Yorkshire and Humberside and the rest of the country to ensure the principles of our work reflect your views."

Mr Starmer added: "The CPS has developed even in the time I have been DPP.  In 2012 we have a much broader remit and have recently taken on prosecutions previously conducted by HM Revenue and Customs, Defra and DWP, and we continue to prosecute cases referred by the 42 police forces in England and Wales, IPCC, SOCA and others. The Code needs to work for every one of our diverse range of specialist prosecutors, so now is the time to reposition it as an overarching statement of principles, sitting above the wealth of specific legal guidance and policies on individual policy and casework areas.

"The CPS handles 900,000 defendants each year, and it is critical that we have the most effective, proportionate and focussed approach possible to dealing with criminality. I want to see a stronger, smarter CPS, continuing to prosecute robustly and bringing offenders to justice for the good of the public and victims.  I think this new Code will help us meet that aim."

The draft of the version of the Code for public consultation includes:

  • A more succinct format to avoid duplication with existing legal guidance in key areas;
  • A new section bringing into sharper focus the need for considerations of the admissibility, reliability and credibility of evidence;
  • A streamlined approach to deciding whether or not it is in the public interest for a suspect to be prosecuted, including broad questions to consider rather than a long list of particular factors;
  • Questions for prosecutors about the seriousness of the offending, the culpability of the suspect and the impact on victims and community: and
  • A question within the public interest section asking prosecutors to consider whether bringing a prosecution is proportionate to the likely outcome.

Mr Starmer continued: "The changes to the public interest considerations in this draft aim to direct prosecutors to think about the particular circumstances of the case they are working on rather than to consider the previous list of pre-determined generalised factors."

Speaking about the addition of proportionality into the Code, re-added having previously been in the versions of the Code in 1986 and 1992, Mr Starmer said: "Proportionality is about ensuring that we and the police are choosing the right cases to prosecute from the start, and doing so in the most effective way. Where cases are complex prosecutors should ensure prosecutions are focused. There may be cases - for example where a court might convict a defendant but decide not to record that conviction by giving an absolute discharge - where police officers or prosecutors might anticipate that a prosecution is not a proportionate way to approach the criminality.

"A common sense approach will ensure the right cases are brought before the courts, and those that shouldn't be prosecuted are not introduced to the system only to later be withdrawn."

This is the second edition of the Code issued by Mr Starmer, and the seventh to date.  The sixth version of the Code remains in place and is available at cps.gov.uk/code.

The consultation closes on 10 October 2012