Changes proposed to Code for Crown Prosecutors to drive improvements in disclosure

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Making sure clearer, earlier information about mobile phone evidence is available before a suspect is charged with a crime is part of a raft of proposed changes announced by the Director of Public Prosecutions today. This will include mobile phone messages sent by suspects and accusers in cases where the parties are known to each other.

The suggested revisions to The Code for Crown Prosecutors are central to plans to drive improvements in the disclosure of evidence. The code is an essential document which governs all CPS prosecutions and an eight-week consultation on the proposals launches today.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Getting disclosure right is fundamentally important. This is a systemic problem and we are already taking strong action to tackle it. The Code for Crown Prosecutors stands at the heart of any case we deal with, so it is essential it evolves to reflect these changes.

“We are working with the police, defence community and others to drive lasting improvement. It is vital that defendants and complainants have trust in the criminal justice system and the public has confidence in the outcome of court cases.”

Under the revised guidelines on disclosure, prosecutors will have to consider whether there is any material held by the police or material that may be available which could affect the decision to charge a suspect with any crime.

This is the latest measure by the CPS to improve the way cases are handled. In January a joint improvement plan was introduced with the police to better manage disclosure.

Asking prosecutors to take into account the degree to which a suspect benefitted financially from an alleged offence when deciding whether to charge them has also been written into the code for the first time. The changes are aimed at assisting the court in recovering any assets such as homes, luxury cars, designer clothes, jewellery or money.

Last year the CPS helped recover £80.1 million from defendants who benefitted from illegal activity and returned the funds to the public purse.

The first edition of the Code was published in 1986. It sets out how every criminal case must pass a two stage test before a person is charged - firstly if there is a realistic prospect of securing a conviction and secondly, whether it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.

Last year the CPS prosecuted more than 530,000 cases which were charged using the Code. This consultation is for the eighth edition of the guidance.

Revisions to how the Threshold Test is applied are also included in the proposals. The test allows a suspect who presents a substantial danger and bail risk to be charged and therefore held in custody in the expectation that further evidence will be produced by the police.

The consultation on the revised Code for Crown Prosecutors can be found in the Consultations section of the CPS website. The closing date for public responses to the consultation is 17 September. The final version of the Code will be published later this year.

Notes to editors

  1. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was established in 1986 to prosecute criminal cases that have been investigated by the police and other investigative organisations in England and Wales. Our duty is to make sure that the right person is prosecuted for the right offence, and to bring offenders to justice wherever possible. We make our decisions independently of the police and government.
  2. The current edition of the Code was published in January 2013, following a consultation in 2012.
  3. The CPS operates across England and Wales, with 14 regional teams prosecuting cases locally. Each team is led by a Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Area.
  4. Alison Saunders became Director of Public Prosecutions in November 2013 for a five year term.
  5. In the 12 months to 31 March 2018:
    • The CPS prosecuted 533,161 cases in England and Wales
    • The percentage of defendants prosecuted who either pleaded guilty or were found guilty at court was 84.1 per cent
    • The CPS employs approximately 6,000 staff, 91 per cent of whom worked in positions directly linked to successfully prosecuting cases at court.

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