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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

CPS responds to Inspectors' review of its handling of police complaints


A joint review by the Inspectorates for police and prosecutors has found the Crown Prosecution Service is sound in both decision-making and case preparation when dealing with cases involving police officers and staff.

The review recommended the CPS adopt wider methods of measuring and monitoring those cases at HQ level, both for its own benefit and for the benefit of other agencies.

CPS Inspectorate Liaison Director, Alex Machray, said: "This review shows the CPS deals fairly and robustly with complaints against police staff, which is exactly what the public expects.

"I am especially pleased to see the review recognising good practice among CPS Areas in tracking cases and training staff to deal with complaints against police officers and staff.

"The review's suggestions on widening the scope of monitoring cases is welcome because it will help us to meet the needs of victims and witnesses, and it will encourage people to come forward by demonstrating that we are meeting those needs."

The review was undertaken jointly by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. They examined 209 cases where a defendant was also a police employee and found the CPS's charging decision reflected a proper application of the Code for Crown Prosecutors (see editors' notes) in 98 per cent of those cases - which is comparable with cases generally.

The review identified nine areas of good practice where not only did it comment favourably, but also recommended the practices be considered for national roll-out. These included examples of lawyers proactively advising police at early stages, using CPS computer systems to measure performance, or delivering specific training.

At the same time, the review also identified areas of practice which varied across the CPS's Areas, which take much of the responsibility for their own business arrangements and processes. The key recommendations were that:

  • Service Level Agreements between areas needed updating
  • the CPS needs to ensure working arrangements with the police and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) are tightly maintained in the interests of efficiency
  • the CPS should establish a lead official to take overall responsibility for complaints cases against police staff to ensure single ownership of police and operational issues.

Mr Machray said: "The latter recommendation is aimed at ensuring a consistent approach across the CPS, improving the monitoring of performance, and ensuring consistent practices for engaging with stakeholders."

The CPS has appointed a senior member of staff from its central Business Development Directorate to take the lead on the necessary work to implement the recommendations and a Delivery Plan is being prepared.

  1. The purpose of the joint Inspectorate review was to analyse and assess the quality of handling of police complaints cases by the CPS. This included the quality, integrity and consistency of decision-making and casework handling generally; also how relationships between CPS departments and partner agencies effected timeliness and decision-making.
  2. Under the Police Reform Act 2002, if a person serving with the police 'may' have committed a criminal offence, then the investigating authority (usually the IPCC or police) is obliged to pass a file to the CPS to review and decide whether criminal charges should be laid.
  3. Serious and complex complaints are considered by the CPS's Special Crime Division. All other complaints are considered by a neighbouring CPS area under cross-border arrangements across England and Wales between police forces and CPS areas.
  4. The CPS makes its charging decisions, whether the subject is a police employee or not, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The CPS considers, in each case, whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction, and then whether it is in the public interest for a prosecution to proceed.
  5. Please contact the CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8105 with any enquiries.