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The Criminal Justice System

The CPS works in partnership with the police, courts, the Attorney General’s Office, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and other agencies throughout the criminal justice system (CJS).

There are 43 police forces across England and Wales responsible for the investigation of crime, collection of evidence and the arrest or detention of suspected offenders. Once a suspect is held, in minor cases the police decide whether to caution them, take no further action, issue a fixed penalty notice or refer to the CPS. In more serious cases, the police will send the files to the CPS to decide whether to prosecute.

More information, including links to your local police force website:

HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is responsible for the administration of criminal, civil and family courts and tribunals in England and Wales.

Magistrates' courts deal with the less serious criminal offences, such as most motoring offences, minor criminal damage or being drunk and disorderly. Youth courts are special magistrates' courts which deal with all but the most serious charges against people aged between 10 (the age of criminal responsibility) and 17.

The Crown Court deals with the most serious offences, for example murder and rape, which are triable by judge and jury.

More information:

The Attorney General fulfils the role of chief legal adviser to the government and superintends the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office.

The Attorney General also has overall responsibility for the Government Legal Department and Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, and fulfils a number of independent public interest functions.

The Solicitor General supports the Attorney across the range of their responsibilities.

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The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has responsibility for different parts of the justice system – the courts, prisons, probation services and attendance centres. Its work spans criminal, civil and family justice, democracy, rights and the constitution. MOJ is a ministerial department, supported by 32 agencies and public bodies.

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The Home Office is the lead government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, crime, fire, counter-terrorism and police.

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Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service carries out sentences given by the courts, in custody and the community, and rehabilitates people in through education and employment.

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Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) inspects the work carried out by the CPS and other prosecuting agencies. Their purpose is to enhance the quality of justice and make an assessment of prosecution services that enables or leads to improvement in their efficiency effectiveness and fairness.

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