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Publication of revised Code for Crown Prosecutors

  • Considering disclosable evidence pre-charge is included for the first time
  • More stringent conditions on how The Threshold Test is applied
  • A greater focus on CPS role in recovering proceeds of crime.

REVISIONS to the Code for Crown Prosecutors have been unveiled today by Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders.

Speaking at Liverpool John Moore’s University in the final few weeks of her tenure, she explained how the changes to the Code were essential to make it fit for the future.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “The Code for Crown Prosecutors stands at the heart of every case we deal with, so it is essential it evolves to reflect the changing issues prosecutors must consider. The explosion in digital evidence seen in recent years has brought real challenges for prosecutors. While it can strongly support the case for prosecution, there must also be rigorous examination of any evidence that assists the defence.

“By revising the Code, we are taking a practical step to support prosecutors with their duty to charge the right person with the right offence in every case.  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.”

The Code governs all CPS prosecutions. It sets out the general principles which must be applied when making decisions about whether or not a person should be charged with a criminal offence.

This is the eighth edition of the Code, and it will officially come into force on Friday October 26. It gives guidance to prosecutors on the general principles to be applied when making decisions about prosecutions. Significant changes include:

  • Under the revised guidelines on disclosure, prosecutors must 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 disclosure of evidence is handled. In January a joint plan was introduced with the police which set out a comprehensive range of actions to drive lasting improvements in disclosure management.

  • For the first time, prosecutors must take into account the degree to which a suspect benefitted financially from an alleged offence when deciding whether to charge them. . This change is 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.

  • Guidance on how to apply the Threshold Test has been simplified and updated, to make sure it is only being used where completely necessary and to avoid cases being charged prematurely. The Threshold Test allows a suspect who presents a substantial bail risk such as a serious risk of harm to the public, to be charged and therefore held in custody in the expectation that further evidence will be produced by the police. It must only be applied in limited circumstances after a rigorous examination of all the conditions.

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 is it in the public interest to bring a prosecution.

Last year The Crown Prosecution Service prosecuted more than 530,000 cases which were charged using the Code.

The revised Code for Crown Prosecutors can be found in the Publications section of this website.

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. The eighth edition will come into force at 00.01am on 26 October, 2018
  3. Alison Saunders became Director of Public Prosecutions in November 2013 for a five year term
  4. 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
  5. 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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