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The Role of The Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, we are responsible for:

  • advising the police on cases for possible prosecution
  • reviewing cases submitted by the police
  • determining any charges in more serious or complex cases
  • preparing cases for court
  • presenting cases at court

Find out more about the role of the Crown Prosecution Service

Sexual Offences

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 updated the law, much of which dated back to 1956.

The main provisions of the Act include the following:

  • Rape is widened to include oral penetration
  • Significant changes to the issue of consent
  • Specific offences relating to children under 13, 16 and 18
  • Offences to protect vulnerable persons with a mental disorder
  • Other miscellaneous offences
  • Strengthening the notification requirements and providing new civil preventative orders

Find out more about how we prosecute sexual offences

Praise for Gloucestershire’s work on PYO and sensitive cases


Inspectors have praised CPS Gloucestershire for its handling of PYOs and sensitive cases such as child abuse, rape and domestic violence.

In their examination of the Area’s performance they also described the quality of decision-making and timeliness of summary trial preparation as generally good.

But they said several aspects of casework handling should be tightened up and overall management of the Area strengthened. There was a need to “improve significantly the co-operation between The CPS and other criminal justice agencies”.

Their review was carried out in parallel with a pilot joint inspection of the Gloucestershire criminal justice area.

Teams from The CPS, police, the magistrates’ courts service, prison and probation inspectorates looked at the interfaces between the county’s criminal justice agencies.

At the same time, officials from Victim Support carried out an inspection of Victim Support Gloucestershire.

In The CPS Inspectorate’s report, inspectors said that at an average of 37 days from arrest to sentence, Gloucestershire’s performance in handling PYOs was one of the best in the country.

While the quality of advocacy in the magistrates’ court was satisfactory, some agents could be better prepared.

In the crown Court, file management was particularly good, although the quality of the indictments, instructions to counsel and aspects of disclosure needed to be improved.

Inspectors praised the Area for pro-actively developing its approach to handling domestic violence cases.

CPS Gloucestershire had built a constructive relationship with the local racial equality council and developed good contacts with local minority groups, as well as playing “a significant part in addressing racist incidents in the community”.

Internally, however, senior managers needed to improve staff morale and “develop a greater degree of trust respect and confidence if the Area is to move forward in line with senior management’s vision”.

Although the Area and its agency partners had developed detailed action plans on Government objectives for the criminal justice system, it had adopted a cautious approach to implementing initiatives such as Glidewell and the charging scheme.

The CPS inspectors’ six recommendations included a proposal that a magistrates’ court case progression officer be appointed to improve summary trial preparation and increase the effective summary trial rate.

They also recommended that the Area introduce appropriate systems and controls to ensure proper management of prosecution costs and that senior management take part in a team-building and coaching programme.

Responding to the report, CCP Withiel Cole said he was pleased inspectors had found the quality of decision-making and timeliness of summary trial preparation was good.

Their recognition for the way the Area handled sensitive cases and youth work was especially encouraging, he said.

He added: “I appreciate, however, that although the number of recommendations is relatively small they highlight further important work which must be done and I have already taken steps to address the issues the Inspectorate raise.”

In their joint report, the five inspectorates said Gloucestershire appeared to be on target to increase the number of offences brought to justice, and had bettered its target of reducing cracked trials. It was also making good progress in cutting the number of ineffective hearings.

But the inspectorates urged agencies to work more closely to resolve issues such as the quality of police files and the timelines of CPS requests to police for additional information and evidence.