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Inquiries and reviews – statutory and independent, child and adult safeguarding, domestic homicide, and offensive weapons homicide

Updated: 31 July 2023|Legal Guidance


The CPS is often asked to engage or participate in a range of external Inquiries and Reviews. This guidance is intended to support CPS staff who receive requests to engage or participate and understand what is required. 

This guidance addresses:

  • different types of Inquiries and Reviews
  • CPS involvement with Statutory and Independent Inquiries
  • CPS involvement with Child Safeguarding Review
  • CPS involvement with Adult Safeguarding Reviews
  • CPS involvement with Domestic Homicide Reviews
  • CPS involvement in Offensive Weapons Domestic Homicide Reviews

Types of Inquiries and Reviews

Statutory Inquiries

The Inquiries Act 2005 (IA 2005) is the main statutory basis for establishing an Inquiry into matters of major current concern and lays down all key stages of the Inquiry process. It is supplemented by the Inquiry Rules 2006 (SI 2006 No. 1838), which deal with more procedural matters. A Minister may cause an inquiry to be held under the IA 2005 in relation to a case where it appears that:

  • particular events have caused, or are capable of causing, public concern; or
  • there is public concern that particular events may have occurred

The Inquiry may be undertaken by a Chair alone or together with other panel members, all of whom will be appointed by the Minister. An Inquiry will not rule on, and has no power to determine, any person's civil or criminal liability, but can make findings of fact and recommendations for improvement.

Non-Statutory Inquiries and Reviews

Non-statutory Inquiries and Reviews may be held in public or in private. Unlike Statutory Inquiries,  they do not have the power to compel the attendance of witnesses or the production of documents. They are therefore essentially reliant on the co-operation of those involved. Non-statutory Inquiries and Reviews can, however, by virtue of section 15 IA 2005 be reconstituted as a Statutory Inquiry if there is a lack of co-operation or other compelling reason.

Independently sponsored public inquiries

Any individual or organisation may establish an Inquiry into a matter which they consider to be of urgent public concern, provided they are prepared to fund it and can persuade appropriate witnesses to attend.

Committee of Privy Counsellors

The Committee of Privy Counsellors is a variation on the non-statutory form of Inquiry. It allows for security information to be seen by the committee that the Government could not otherwise make available.

CPS Reviews at the instigation of the DPP

CPS Reviews are instigated at the request of the Director of Public Prosecutions and, depending upon the nature of the Review, can be carried out internally, or by an external individual or organisation. Examples of these Reviews are the Review carried out in relation to the case of R v Mouncher and Sir Richard Henriques' review into CPS decision-making and handling of all past matters relating to Greville Janner.

Royal Commissions

Royal Commissions are investigatory or advisory committees set up by the Monarch on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. A Royal Commission will be established to gather information about the operation of existing laws or to investigate any social, educational, or other matter. The Commission has prescribed terms of reference and reports to the government on how any change might be achieved. The creation of the CPS came about following a Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. Its report was published in 1981 and identified the need for prosecution decisions to be made independently and by lawyers.

Child (Safeguarding) Practice Reviews

Where there has been a death or serious harm to a child the Children Act 2004 requires a Child (Safeguarding) Practice Review. 

Within 15 days of notification of a "serious child safeguarding case" a Rapid Review should take place into the circumstances of the case, involving the partner agencies: local authority, Police, Health, Education, Social Care. There are three possible outcomes:

  • a decision that the case does not meet the criteria for a further Review and no further action is taken
  • the case proceeds to a local Review
  • the case raises national issues and is referred to the national panel for a national Review.

Local and national Reviews must normally take place within six months.

In England, the key guidance for Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews is Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (Department for Education, 2018a).

In Wales, the key guidance for Child Practice Reviews is Working together to safeguard people: volume 2: child practice reviews (Welsh Government, 2016).

Section 16N Children Act 2004  sets out the ability of a Review to request any body or person to provide information to the Review. The body/person must comply with that request.

Safeguarding Adult Reviews

The Care Act 2014 requires local authorities to carry out Safeguarding Adults Reviews (SARs) when someone with care and support needs dies as a result of neglect or abuse and there is a concern that the local authority or its partners could have done more to protect them. Section 45 Care Act 2014 states a Statutory Adult Board can request any body or person to provide information to the Review. The body/person must comply with that request.

Domestic Homicide Reviews

A Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) is a locally conducted multi-agency Review of the circumstances in which the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by:

  • a person to whom they were related, or with whom they were or had been in an intimate personal relationship; or,
  • a member of the same household as them

DHRs were introduced by section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004  (DVCA 2004). Their purpose is not to reinvestigate the death or apportion blame, but to identify learning.

The DHR will usually draw upon information obtained from:

  • interviewing family members
  • interviewing significant people who may have known the victim or offender; and
  • obtaining information from participating agencies, either by way of an Individual Management Review (IMR), or by other means such as a chronology of events

To support DHRs, the Home Office (HO) has developed a number of resources for practitioners, and published a Multi-agency Statutory Guidance for Domestic Homicide Reviews. CPS staff involved in a DHR should ensure they are aware of this guidance.

A number of agencies are cited as having statutory responsibility to establish or participate in a DHR, as set out in section 9 DVCA 2004. Those agencies include:

  • the police
  • local authorities
  • local probation services and providers of probation services; and
  • NHS Commissioning Board, NHS Trusts, and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups

Other agencies may have a role to play in the process, though their involvement is decided on a case-by-case basis and is not a statutory requirement. The CPS will not normally be part of the Review Panel, however, the CPS and agencies not named in legislation may be called upon to provide an Individual Management Review (IMR), general information, answer specific questions raised by the panel or attend a panel meeting.

The Community Safety Partnership (CSP) is responsible for appointing an Independent Chair, who will then convene a DHR Review Panel and draw up the DHR’s terms of reference. The Chair is responsible for managing and co-ordinating the Review process and for producing the final DHR report. The DHR Chair will seek to produce the report six months from the date proceedings commenced

The local CSP is likely to be informed of a domestic homicide by the relevant police force, however any professional or agency can also refer a domestic homicide to the CSP in writing, if they become aware of a death which they believe falls into the scope of DHR, or if believe they there are important lessons for inter-agency working to be learned.

The overall responsibility for setting up a DHR rests with the Chair of the CSP. This decision must be made within one month of the homicide coming to the Chair's attention.

The police play a key role on the DHR Review Panel and will provide the CPS with a point of contact on these issues. It is therefore essential that effective communication between the CPS and the police is maintained throughout the process.

When a DHR is completed, the final report is sent to the HO. If the CPS has been involved at any time with the person(s) who are the subject of the DHR or has been a party involved in the Review, there may be findings or recommendations made for the CPS.

Offensive Weapons Homicide Review

An Offensive Weapons Homicide Review (OWHR) is a locally conducted multi-agency review of the circumstances of a qualifying homicide where the person was aged 18 or over, and the death, or the events surrounding it, involved the use of an offensive weapon. (An offensive weapon is defined in  section 1 Prevention of Crime Act 1953).

OWHRs were introduced by section 24 Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (PCSC 2022) and came into force on 1 April 2023 on a pilot basis.

The pilot will be carried out in several local authority areas in London (the London Boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Harrow, Lambeth, and Southwark), the West Midlands (the areas of Birmingham and Coventry City Council), and Wales (the police force area of South Wales).

An OWHR is only required where the conditions set out in regulation 4 PCSC 2022 (Offensive Homicide Reviews) Regulations 2022 are met, these are:

  • a body or part of a body of the person who has died has been located
  • the person who has died can be identified or at least one person who caused/is likely to have caused the death can be identified, and
  • one or more of the Relevant Review Partners (RRP) has information about the person who has died or at least one person who caused/is likely to have caused the persons death

An OWHR is not required when a DHR, Child Death Review or Safeguarding Adult Review is already taking place.

OWHRs are not designed to reinvestigate the death of the victim, identify culpable parties, or adopt disciplinary processes. Their purpose is to:

  • identify the lessons to be learnt from the death; and
  • consider whether it would be appropriate for anyone to take action in respect of those lessons learnt

OWHRs are carried out by a RRP as defined in section 36 PCSC 2022. The RRP will decide who leads the Review. The Statutory Guidance advises that an Independent Chair is commissioned to assist with the Review.

The CPS is not a RRP. The CPS is however listed as an ‘Appropriate Body’, which is specified as an organisation that has a specialist understanding of the dynamics of serious violence and the relationship with wider criminality, exploitation, and societal and economic risk factors.

As an Appropriate Body, the CPS may be asked to provide information for the purpose of the OWHR. Section 29(5) PCSC 2022 provides that a person to whom a request is made must comply with the request. The police play a key role in providing information to the OWHR panel and where appropriate should consult with the CPS i.e. if there is an ongoing criminal investigation or proceedings. It is therefore essential that effective communication between the CPS and the police is maintained throughout the process.

An OWHR is expected to progress alongside any criminal investigation or criminal proceedings. There is no pause option for a Review and so OWHR panels must ensure that the process is carried out in a way which does not jeopardise the integrity of, or undermine the criminal investigation or proceedings.

The suggested timeframe for completion of a Review is 12 months.

In addition to providing evidence in the information gathering stage, it will also be relevant for the CPS to provide support to the OWHR process as it continues, including in the implementation of the recommendations it produces, where applicable.

To support OWHRs, the Home Office has published OWHR Statutory Guidance, including detailed guidance on information and data sharing and best practice expectations for the delivery of OWHRs.

CPS Involvement with Inquiries and Reviews

This section of the guidance addresses what the CPS needs to do when asked to participate in Statutory or Non-statutory Inquiry.

Terms of Reference

The aim of an Inquiry is to help restore public confidence in systems or services by investigating the facts with a view to preventing recurrence. The remit of any Inquiry's investigation must be set out in the terms of reference (ToR).

Terms of reference include:

  • matters to which the Inquiry relates
  • any matters to which the Inquiry is to determine the facts
  • whether any recommendations are to be made
  • any other matters relating to the scope of the Inquiry that the Minister or inquiry may specify

Section 5 IA 2005 requires the Minister to set out the ToR of a Statutory Inquiry prior to it being set up.

The ToR for a Non-statutory Inquiry may be set out by the relevant Minister, or agreed by the panel, sometimes in consultation with others.

Initial Contact

Once an Inquiry has been established, it will usually make direct contact with relevant individuals and organisations. Such contact should be made via the DLS team. Where contact is made with others in the CPS, it should be passed to the DLS team without delay.

Depending upon the nature of the Inquiry, the initial contact may ask the CPS to preserve material relevant to the TORs and to seek cooperation by providing material or information and potentially giving evidence in due course.   CPS involvement in any Inquiry will be determined by reference to the TORs and the role the CPS has played in the events of concern. Any decision on whether to engage with an Inquiry must be approved by the Directors of Legal Services. The DLS will also determine which CPS department should lead on engagement with the Inquiry.

Core Participant Status

For Statutory Inquiries under Rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 the Inquiry Chair may designate a person or organisation, such as the CPS, as a core participant at any time during the Inquiry, provided that person or organisation consents to being so designated. The Chair must consider whether the person or organisation:

  • played, or may have played, a direct and significant role in relation to the matters to which the Inquiry relates
  • has a significant interest in an important aspect of the matters to which the Inquiry relates; or
  • may be subject to explicit or significant criticism during the Inquiry

The Inquiry Rules 2006 provide further procedural guidance in relation to the giving of written and oral evidence, legal representation, the sending of warning letters and delivery of reports.

If the Inquiry has not invited the CPS to be a core participant the CPS may apply to be so designated.

The decision as to whether the CPS should apply to be a core participant and whether the CPS should be legally represented at the Inquiry will depend upon how close the CPS is to the core issues of the Inquiry. The final decision will require the agreement of the DPP.

Roles and Responsibilities

The DLS will determine which CPS department is best placed to lead the CPS participation/work with the Inquiry. The designated team lead will have overall responsibility for coordinating and handling the CPS response to the Inquiry and for keeping the DLS updated on key events.

The Inquiry lead should identify single points of contact (SPOCs) from within the Records Management Unit (RMU), Departmental Security Unit (DSU), Communications and any relevant CPS Area or Central Casework Division that might be required to support engagement with the Inquiry. Each SPOC will be responsible for providing advice and guidance to the lead for the Inquiry in relation to matters relevant to their area of expertise and knowledge.

An early meeting with the Inquiry may be essential, in addition to engaging with other relevant partners as appropriate (for example Ministry of Justice, the Home Office or the police), to determine the scope of the CPS’ likely engagement.

The CPS Lead will:

  • meet with the RMU to establish points of contact and identify the material available within the RMU
  • identify single points of contact within each CPS Area/ Directorate
  • draft the terms of any gateway to be published to all Areas to ensure the preservation of material
  • carefully consider what resources will be needed
  • distribute the Inquiry's requests for information to the relevant individuals
  • collate the responses to the requests for information
  • provide to the Inquiry the formal response on behalf of the CPS to their request for information
  • keep a clear record of the material disclosed to the Inquiry
  • provide updates on the Inquiry's activity to the DPP, Chief Executive, DLS and to the AGO, as appropriate
  • refer Inquiry requests for undertakings to the DLS team.

Area Leads will:

  • receive the Inquiry's requests for information from the CPS Lead
  • facilitate the Area response to the request for information including obtaining the information requested
  • provide to the CPS Lead all of the material held by the Area which falls within the Inquiry's request
  • provide the Area's response within the deadline set by the CPS Lead
  • provide to the CPS Lead any explanation required where material is missing, has been destroyed or cannot be provided within the deadline set
  • indicate to the CPS Lead where there are any issues of sensitivity with the material provided
  • mark the material provided to the CPS Lead to indicate what it is proposed is subject to an application for redaction as well as any explanation for such a proposal
  • provide updates to the CPS Lead where new relevant information or material becomes available

RMU will:

  • provide a report detailing CPS retention policies, security arrangements and search facilities
  • confirm to the CPS Lead what material held by the Unit falls within the Inquiry's request and provide a list of the same
  • provide the Unit's response within the deadline set by the CPS Lead
  • provide to the CPS Lead any explanation required where material is missing, has been destroyed or cannot be provided within the deadline set
  • provide copies of the material falling within the Inquiry's request to the CPS Lead digitally unless otherwise stated

When considering material which is relevant to the Inquiry's request and TOR, it should be noted that intentional alteration or suppression of evidence is a criminal offence (see below).

Engagement with the Inquiry

Effective and efficient communication with the inquiry is essential. Requests from a Statutory Inquiry will come in the form of a Rule 9 request. The letter will set out the details of broad and specific categories of material required as well as the deadline for providing that material. If it is not possible to meet the deadline, a full explanation must be provided to the Inquiry solicitor or secretary, prior to the due date, providing an explanation and requesting an extension.

Retention and recovery of relevant material

It is essential that immediate action is taken to secure all files (hard copy and electronic) and documents that may be relevant to the TORs of the Inquiry. There will be early communication from the inquiry, sometimes before ToRs have been agreed and often before a formal request is received. In such circumstances guidance will be provided by the Inquiry to ensure all relevant files and documents are preserved.

CPS personnel involved with the Inquiry should be familiar with the CPS Retention and Disposal Schedule Policy on storage of papers. The RMU SPOC will be able to assist in this regard.

Once material has been identified, careful consideration should be given to how to supply CPS material to the Inquiry. This will depend on whether the material is hard copy, digital or a mixture. It is important to discuss this with the Inquiry secretariat to ensure compatibility and data security.

Consideration must be given as to the nature of the material. There may be issues of sensitivity and/ or confidentiality where legal professional privilege or public interest immunity applies. Again, this will need to be handled appropriately and in accordance with relevant policies.

Storage, searching and transfer of digital material

Responding to Inquiries can raise a number of IT issues. Much evidential material is likely to be held digitally, so it is necessary to consider how to best secure information that the Inquiry may request from the CPS.

Information may be in CMS, in a folder on the network, and / or in email accounts, in which case it will be necessary to make sure that anyone with access to these knows not to delete anything, and that no automatic deletion takes place. If the area of potential interest is very limited, it may be prudent to collect the data into a secure folder on the network. In this situation, it is advisable to request a new shared folder, with access strictly limited to those people in the CPS who need to view the inquiry data (with the assistance of the IT Service Desk). Unnecessary duplication of data should be avoided. If a new data store is created, the Departmental Security Unit must be notified so that a record can be added to the Information Asset Register.

The Inquiry may request digital data to be supplied in a particular manner. It is essential to ensure that such data is transferred in an appropriately secure way. When in transit, material marked "Official Sensitive" or higher should be encrypted.

Policy and Guidance on how to share information securely is available on the Security and Information Assurance (SIAD) pages on the intranet. If you have any queries regarding the holding and transfer of digital information in respect of Inquiries, please contact SIAD.

Disclosure of Material to the Inquiry

Statutory Inquiries have the power to compel the provision of material to it and so the CPS is obliged to respond when requests are made. However, it will nonetheless be important to ensure that the Inquiry has in place a suitable Disclosure Protocol or Data Sharing Agreement, which sets out the data handling arrangements. This ought to include details of the security clearance of relevant individuals to ensure that Government Security Classification guidance is adhered to.

This may be agreed and signed by the participating organisation(s) and the Inquiry, but may also be set up by the Inquiry alone.

A data sharing agreement should set out the terms and conditions on which documents may be provided to the Inquiry, its servers or agents for processing by them, e.g. dealing with digitisation of the disclosed material by an external company. The processing agreement should provide assurances to organisations over any concerns they may have about compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018. Such an agreement will be signed by all relevant parties including the Inquiry and the processing company. Such agreements should be reviewed by the CPS’ Data Protection Officer before signature.

It is normal for the Inquiry to request un-redacted copies of all documents in the first instance. Where there are issues as to sensitivity and confidentiality an agreement must be secured in advance to ensure that material is received and held by the Inquiry in accordance with CPS position as to non-disclosure. In such circumstances the CPS must inform the Inquiry of any concerns there are in relation to the publication of specific documents or parts thereof.

In respect of Statutory Inquiries, a redaction application should be made where necessary, requesting a restriction order on public access to specific material under section 19 IA 2005. It may be necessary to prepare a redacted copy of the disclosed documents at the same time as full disclosure depending on the individual agreement reached with the Inquiry. The Inquiry will usually carry out a relevance sift on material received and return all of the selected material for redactions to be made by the providing organisation.

If there are concerns about providing a copy of a particular document because of its sensitivity, CPS legal guidance on Disclosure of Material to Third Parties should be considered, always bearing in mind that the Inquiry will be looking for full disclosure in the first instance. It should be noted that statutory inquiries have the power to compel production of specific material under section 21 IA 2005.

A list of all material provided to the Inquiry should be logged to create a full audit trail.

Providing Witness Evidence to an Inquiry or Review

The CPS may be asked to provide written witness evidence in the first instance in relation to defined issues pursuant to a Rule 9 request setting out the areas to be covered, the questions posed and the relevant documents to be addressed. Usually witness statements should be provided on behalf of the organisation by a senior representative as agreed by the DLS. If named CPS staff members are asked to provide a statement to the Inquiry, the guidance on Witness Statements from CPS Employees should be followed. Appropriate time and support should be offered to members of staff to allow them to participate where appropriate.

The Salmon Principles

The Salmon Royal Commission investigated whether the inquisitorial procedures used by public inquiries were justified. It concluded that they were but that six principles should be adopted to offer procedural fairness.

These are now known as the Salmon Principles:

  1. Before any person becomes involved in an Inquiry, the tribunal must be satisfied that there are circumstances which affect them and which the tribunal proposes to investigate.
  2. Before any person who is involved in an Inquiry is called as a witness they should be informed of any allegations which are made against them and the substance of the evidence in support of them.
  3. They should be given an adequate opportunity of preparing their case and of being assisted by legal advisers. Their legal expenses should normally be met out of public funds.
  4. They should have the opportunity of being examined by their own solicitor or counsel and of stating their case in public at the Inquiry.
  5. Any material witnesses they wish to call at the Inquiry should, if reasonably practicable, be heard.
  6. They should have the opportunity of testing by cross-examination conducted by their own solicitor or counsel any evidence which may affect them.


The Inquiry will identify those it considers are able to provide relevant information and the CPS Lead will need to make contact with any such CPS staff members who may be current or former employees.

Legal Assistance

Legal assistance is provided to the CPS and to CPS current and former employees by the Government Legal Department (GLD). It is not common for a witness to need legal advice before or during an interview with the Review or Inquiry team, however, where it is anticipated that individuals may be subject to criticism, legal assistance may be appropriate. Similarly, it may be appropriate for those who are asked to provide statements to an Inquiry to receive legal assistance. This should be determined on a case-by-case basis. The costs of such legal support will be borne by the CPS.

The Inquiry Chair has the power to require the production of evidence, the attendance of witnesses and the taking of evidence on oath by virtue of section 22 IA 2005. Restrictions can be placed on public access to the Inquiry where appropriate. Continued support and advice for any CPS witness in this position will be available.

Under section 35 IA 2005 it is an offence for an individual to fail without reasonable excuse to do anything that he is required to do by notice under section 21 IA 2005.

Reporting and recommendations

In its final report, an Inquiry or Review may wish to criticise witnesses. Where this is anticipated, the Inquiry or Review will provide extracts from the draft report to those subject to criticism to allow them to an opportunity to respond. This process is known as “Maxwellisation”. The Inquiry or Review will consider representations from witnesses if appropriate but the final decision on the content of the report rests with the Inquiry.

The final publication of the report will include recommendations which may be relevant to the CPS. Any recommendations made that are relevant to the CPS must be considered and, where accepted, actioned  within a reasonable period of time.

Criminal Offences under the Inquiries Act 2005

Those providing material to an Inquiry should note that under section 35(2) IA 2005 a person is guilty of an offence if during the course of an Inquiry they do anything that is intended to have the effect of -

  • distorting or otherwise altering any evidence, document or other thing that is given, produced, or provided to the Inquiry Panel, or
  • preventing any evidence, document, or other thing from being given, produced, or provided to the Inquiry Panel, or anything that known or believed likely to have that effect.

By virtue of section 35(3) IA 2005 a person is guilty of an offence if during an Inquiry -

  • they intentionally suppress or conceal a document that is, and that they knows or belief to be, a relevant document, or
  • they intentionally alters or destroys any such document.

Proceedings may only be instituted with the consent of the DPP. By virtue of section 1(7) Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 this may be with the consent of a Crown Prosecutor.

Under section 35(1) of the Inquiries Act 2005 it is an offence for an individual to fail without reasonable excuse to do anything that he is required to do by notice under section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005. Such prosecutions are instituted and conducted by the Chairman of an Inquiry, in accordance with the Inquiries Act 2005.

In the rare circumstances where after a prosecution has been instituted under section 35(1), it is not possible for a Chairman of an Inquiry to maintain the position of prosecutor, the CPS will consider requests from a Chairman of an Inquiry to take over proceedings, via the powers conferred under section 6(2) of the Prosecution of Offences Act (POA) 1985, and proceed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.  Such circumstances might arise once an Inquiry has concluded and the position of Chairman of an Inquiry ceases to exist, and procedural matters in the case remain ongoing or viable, for example.

If it is agreed that the CPS will take over such a prosecution, the Inquiry must provide the CPS with all the material relevant to the prosecution and in accordance with the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996.

Process for Child Safeguarding Reviews, Adult Safeguarding Reviews, Domestic Homicide Reviews and Offensive Weapons Homicide Reviews

Although, each of these Reviews operate under separate regimes, the approach to take in key respects is largely the same and it is set out below.

Reference to ‘Area’ should be taken to include all Areas, Divisions, Directorates and CPSD.

CPS appointed single person of contact

Each Area should ensure that they have a single point of contact (SPOC) for Reviews, at Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor (DCCP) grade, although where necessary e.g. in CPSD, this can be delegated to a SDCP.

The SPOC is responsible for engagement with the Review and should be the recipient of any request to participate in a Review and should be available to provide support and guidance to the Review as appropriate.

As a matter of good practice, SPOCs are expected to engage with their Local Community Safety Partnerships to introduce themselves as the lead for DHRs.

Invitation to the CPS to participate in a Review

There are different ways in which the CPS may be invited to participate in a Review. The invitation may be to invite a senior member of the CPS Area:

  • to be a member of the Review Panel
  • to contribute to the Review process, e.g. by the submission of an Individual Management Review (IMR), which is an account of an agencies' involvement in the case, or to provide a chronology or other documentation
  • to make representations about holding the Review in the light of criminal proceedings (prosecutors should note this is not applicable for a OWHR as they take place notwithstanding if criminal investigations or proceedings are ongoing)

Once informed of a Review, the relevant CPS Area should:

  • ensure that steps are taken to secure any records relating to any related cases (whether live or closed, whatever decision or outcome, whether those involved were victims, suspects, or defendants, and across the CPS)
  • contact the Review to request its terms of reference, to assess what participation is appropriate

The CPS has a statutory requirement to participate when requested in Child Safeguarding Reviews, Safeguarding Adult Reviews and OWHRs, but is not obliged to participate in a DHR. However, if a CPS Area is approached to participate, it expected that they will do all they can to assist.

The CPS will usually seek to participate as a Review panel member where there is a specific reason associated with the case which requires a response from the CPS or where there is an opportunity to explain the role of the CPS and the decision(s) made. For example, where an incident involved a defendant who was on bail, or if there had been a previous decision to not charge a defendant. The CPS representative attending a Review must have full knowledge of the case and be prepared to explain the actions and role of the CPS in the case under Review. The provision of information and the extent of CPS participation is limited to explaining the role of the CPS and our decision-making and it may be necessary to make this clear.

If the CPS is not invited to be part of the Review process but then becomes aware of it, or declines to participate in relation to a DHR, it may nonetheless be appropriate for the CPS to make enquiries of the panel and either offer to be involved or request a copy of the report for accuracy before it is published and suggest amendments if appropriate to do so.

Further steps when asked to participate in a Review

The SPOC should be notified of the request to participate. Where this notification comes to another person in Area, it should be forwarded to the local SPOC to ensure that there is oversight of all Reviews within the Area. The SPOC should assist with any early scoping requests from the Review including what CPS involvement there has been with the person(s) subject to the Review. The SPOC should answer any specific questions posed by the Review.

The SPOC should check the name(s) of the person(s) subject to the Review on the CPS CMS system, to identify whether there are any relevant cases, both live and closed files with which the CPS has had any involvement. It should also include searching for cases where the victim may have been a defendant or where charges have not been proceeded with. This search should include not only an Area search but a nationwide search in case the Area contacted is not the only one that has had any involvement with the person(s) named.

When informed of the Review the Area should ensure steps are taken to secure any records relating to live and closed files. Where files have been destroyed due to the passage of time, the Review should be informed of this as they may wish to contact the police as an interested party to see if they have retained any records.

Where more than one Area was involved with the persons with whom the Review is concerned, it should be agreed between SPOCs who will lead and take responsibility for the response/participation in the Review. The suggested structure below should be followed: 

  • Where more than one Area was involved the Area with the most recent involvement should take the lead with contributions from any other relevant Area(s).
  • Where both Area and CPSD was involved with named person(s), the Area should take the lead with contributions from CPSD where required.
  • Where only CPSD was involved with the named person(s) they will lead.

Timescales for the provision of information to contribute to the Review should be agreed between Areas, ensuring that there is no unnecessary delay during communications in providing a response to the Review.

The SPOC should ensure that all Areas have details of the URN(s) for cases that are relevant to the Review.

The SPOC may allocate another CPS representative who has not previously had any involvement in the relevant case(s) to review the CPS case(s) in full. As part of the review the following should be considered:

  • What involvement has the CPS had in respect of the named person(s) subject to the Review?
  • Was the decision-making in the case compliant with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, and any applicable prosecution guidance?
  • Were any decisions made to accept pleas made in compliance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the Attorney General’s Guidance on the Acceptability of Pleas?
  • Were appropriate representations made at bail, sentencing and other hearings?
  • Whether there were any errors made in the case handling?
  • Any lessons or reflections which arise from the CPS review
  • Whether participating in the Review at the stage requested would give rise to any risks, for example relating to ongoing proceedings or charging decisions not yet made.
  • Any specific questions from the Review

Simultaneous Reviews and criminal proceedings

The Review may consult the police and CPS (if appropriate) for advice on whether the Review should take account of any criminal investigation or criminal proceedings, and what impact it may have and whether any delay is appropriate in relation to a DHR, Child Safeguarding Reviews and Adult Safeguarding Reviews. However, for an OWHR the Review will take place notwithstanding criminal investigations or proceedings and will not be paused.

The Review panels are independent from the criminal justice process. It is not possible to require the Review to alter its timescales or scope. If there is concern that the Review may jeopardise ongoing criminal investigations or proceedings, there should be discussion and agreement reached with the Review on the way forward. The case-specific concerns should be clearly articulated, with reference to the Review’s terms of reference, the material it will obtain and the nature and timing of the criminal investigation.

Material generated or obtained by the Review is third party material for the purposes of disclosure. This may include minutes from meetings, IMRs from contributing agencies and notes of interviews. The Attorney General’s Guidelines on Disclosure (2022) and the obligation to follow all reasonable lines of enquiry should be followed in respect of this.

The Review may wish to interview key persons while a criminal investigation or criminal proceedings are ongoing. This is potentially of critical importance, as there may be pressure on the Review Panel to conclude a timely Review, but those persons may be central witnesses in the criminal case. It is imperative that if a criminal investigation is ongoing, or criminal proceedings have commenced, the Senior Investigating Officer informs the CPS and Review Panel if any interviewees are potential witnesses. The CPS should be consulted about whether it is appropriate for potential witnesses to partake in the Review and views provided to the Review panel.

Early Scoping

Area may be contacted at the early scoping stage, often being asked to complete a standard document, to determine if there has been any CPS involvement with the person(s) named as the subject of the Review. It will often require the detail of the offence(s) which the person(s) named have been involved in, the facts of the offence and the outcome. This document or chronology will shape any future requests from the Review for CPS participation.

A document or chronology should be completed by the SPOC, or a person nominated by them and must be approved by the Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for Area or Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPSD.

Individual Management Reviews (IMRs)

Area may be contacted and requested to complete an IMR, a copy of which will be supplied by the Review.

An IMR is an account of an agencies role in how they dealt with a particular case. The aim of an IMR is to:

  • allow agencies to look openly and critically at individual and organisational practice and the context within which people were working to see whether the circumstances indicates that changes could and should be made
  • identify how those changes will be brought about; and
  • identify examples of good practice within agencies

Report writers should note that the content of an IMR is often incorporated in the final report for Reviews.

Conducting an IMR

The IMR should be completed by the SPOC or person nominated by them, who should consider the following when compiling it:

  • an accurate chronology of involvement with the victim or defendant in any relevant case should be provided
  • all relevant documents including relevant policies and procedures in force at the time, if appropriate, should be examined
  • consideration should be given to speaking to relevant staff involved in the case. A written record should be made and shared with the person spoken to. They should be assured that purpose of the interview is not to apportion blame to an individual but to learn lessons for future practice
  • names of all staff involved in a case must be anonymised at all stages and not disclosed under any circumstances. Area(s) are advised to state job title of the staff only. Where the author is unable to interview a member of staff, the reason for this should be included; and
  • if any case handling issue was identified on the case, detail any action that was taken

The IMR report must be quality assured and approved by the Chief Crown Prosecutor.

The IMR should be signed and dated by the IMR author and counter-signed and dated by the Chief Crown Prosecutor.

Responding to specific questions from the Review

There may be occasions where the Review requests that the CPS answer specific questions rather than completing a full IMR. This should be completed by the SPOC, or a person nominated by them and be quality assured and approved by the Chief Crown Prosecutor.

Attendance at a Review

The Review Panel may invite a CPS representative to attend the panel meeting(s).

If the CPS Area are invited to attend a panel meeting this invitation should be considered favourably as it is an opportunity for the CPS to explain their role. Where a CPS representative from Area is attending, they should be of Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor level or above. The representative attending should have full knowledge of the case, be able to explain the actions taken and speak authoritatively about the role of the CPS.

The DLS team must be notified in advance of a CPS representative attending a Review meeting.

Draft report

When an Area has been asked to participate in a Review they should be supplied with a draft report when it has been prepared by the panel. Where this is not provided it should be requested.

This should be checked for the accuracy of comments made regarding the CPS and to consider any recommendations made for the CPS. Area should be satisfied that the information in the report has been fully and fairly presented.

Where it is considered that there has been a misunderstanding, or an error made in the report, the Area should prepare suggested amendments to be considered by the Review before the final report is sent to the Home Office.

The draft report and any suggested amendments should be shared with the DLS team in advance of communication with the Review.

Notification to the Director of Legal Services Team

Areas should notify the DLS team if they are asked to provide an early scoping chronology. The notification should include a copy of the chronology submitted to the Review. This does not need to be approved by the DLS team but provided for oversight and notification only at this stage of a Review.

Where Area is asked, after early scoping, to participate in a Review by providing either a completed IMR, answering questions set by the panel or attending the panel the DLS team should be briefed in advance of any submissions to the panel.

Area should provide the DLS team at least two weeks in which to consider the brief and respond, allowing sufficient time for any further consideration before submission to the Review Panel.

The brief to the DLS team should include:

  • details of the stage of the Review
  • if an invite to attend the Review has been made details of who the Area is proposing to send with the rationale
  • copies of any completed IMR or other documentations requested by the Review Panel
  • where an IMR has not been requested a completed report detailing the circumstances of the case

After initial notification, the Area should ensure the DLS is kept appraised of the progress of the participation in the Review.

The Area should consider any draft Review report and provide copies to the DLS, notifying them of any recommendations made for the CPS and any risks identified from comments made within the report. At least two weeks-notice should be given to the DLS team to consider the draft report, before any response to the Review.

Upon receipt of the final report this should be supplied to the DLS team and again this should include notification of any recommendations made for the CPS and risks identified from comments made within the report.

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