CPS Says: the role of the CPS in deciding whether to charge an individual with a criminal offence
We have been asked questions about the role of the CPS in deciding whether to charge an individual with a criminal offence. The following information explains our role and approach. It is not a comment on any individual case.
The CPS does not investigate allegations of crime, or choose which cases to consider. CPS prosecutors must review every case referred to us by the police, or other investigators. We provide expert legal advice early in investigations to help build strong cases, or identify where a suspect should not be charged.
We do not decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence - that is for the jury, judge or magistrate - but we must make the key decision of whether a case should be put before a court.
Every charging decision is based on the same two-stage test in the Code for Crown Prosecutors:
- Does the evidence provide a realistic prospect of conviction? That means, having heard the evidence, is a court more likely than not to find the defendant guilty? And;
- Is it in the public interest to prosecute? That means asking questions including how serious the offence is, the harm caused to the victim, the impact on communities and whether prosecution is a proportionate response.
The test we apply in deciding whether to charge a suspect is different from that applied by the criminal courts. A jury, judge or magistrate may only convict if they are sure that the defendant is guilty.
Guidance for prosecutors when considering domestic abuse allegations gives specific advice on how to proceed when a complainant does not want to support a prosecution, which can often be a feature of these difficult cases. It provides guidance on the information required to understand why a complainant may withdraw support and the different options that should be considered, including proceeding without the complainant’s support if other evidence is available. It sets out a number of factors which may be helpful when considering the public interest in whether to charge in these circumstances.
The CPS has also recently published updated guidance for prosecutors in cases involving suspects or defendants with mental health conditions or disorders.