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Decision to Charge

Once the Police have completed their investigations, they will refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on how to proceed. We will then make a decision on whether a suspect should be charged, and what that charge should be.

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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

Charging decision regarding Baroness Uddin

12/03/2010

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, today announced that there will be no charges in relation to Baroness Uddin's claims for parliamentary expenses.

Mr Starmer said: "On 5 February this year, I announced the decisions that we had made in respect of five individuals who had made various claims by way of parliamentary expenses. I also announced that a sixth case was still under consideration and that the criminal investigation was ongoing. That case relates to Baroness Uddin, a member of the House of Lords.

"Members of the House of Lords generally are not paid a salary.  However, they are entitled to claim certain expenses under the House of Lords' expenses scheme and one of those is for 'night subsistence'.  That allowance can only be claimed if a peer whose 'only or main residence' is outside London stays 'overnight' in London because of House of Lords business.

"The allegation against Baroness Uddin was that she had claimed 'night subsistence' for overnight stays in London, after attendances in the House of Lords, to which she was not entitled. Although she had nominated a flat she owned in Maidstone, Kent, as her 'only or main residence', it was alleged that 'her only or main residence' was in fact a house in east London.

"It was always recognised that the definition of 'only or main residence' under the House of Lords' expenses scheme would be critical to any possible criminal proceedings against Baroness Uddin. However, 'only or main residence' is not defined in the House of Lords' expenses scheme itself; nor is it defined in legislation.

"The Clerk of the Parliaments, Michael Pownall, provided a statement on 30 November 2009 in which he said: 'Ultimately it is up to Members to designate an address as their main residence as they see fit.'

"Furthermore, on 9 February 2010, Mr Pownall published a response to complaints about expenses claims in which he made it clear that the House Committee had considered the definition of main residence and that the threshold set by the Committee was that: '...main residence has to be visited with a degree of frequency: in the order of at least once a month, over the year, when the House is sitting. Time spent at the main residence when the House is in recess is also a relevant factor.  Ownership is not a requirement but is a factor in each case.'

"On that interpretation, in any criminal proceedings, it would almost inevitably be necessary for the prosecution to prove, to the criminal standard, that any  peer in question had not even visited the address they deemed their 'only or main' residence once a month.

"That presents a very real difficulty and we considered whether it would be open to the Crown Prosecution Service to advance a different definition of 'only or main residence' in any criminal proceedings. However, after careful consideration, we concluded that such a course would not be open to us.

"Evidence in this case was obtained from neighbours of Baroness Uddin and from companies supplying utility services, such as water, gas and electricity to the flat in Maidstone.   But after careful scrutiny of all of the available evidence we have decided that, in applying the definition of 'only or main residence' adopted by the House Committee, there is insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Baroness Uddin and we have today advised the Metropolitan Police to take no further action.

"It is important to bear in mind that the question I have addressed is whether there is enough evidence resulting from the police investigation to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. That is the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, promulgated by me as Director of Public Prosecutions under section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. It is not my function to make findings of fact and I have not done so. Baroness Uddin is entitled to be presumed innocent and that is the basis upon which I have approached the case." 

Ends

  1. Media enquiries to CPS press office on 020 7796 8127 or 020 7796 8102.
  2. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court
  3. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 14 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are five specialised national divisions: Organised Crime, Special Crime, Counter-Terrorism, Fraud Prosecution, and Revenue and Customs. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,250 people and prosecuted 1,032,598 cases with an overall conviction rate of 86.6% in 2008-2009. Further information can be found on our website.

    More about the CPS

  4. The DPP has published his long term vision for the prosecution service and its role within the wider criminal justice system. It includes modernising the service and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice - read "The Public Prosecution Service: Setting the Standard" at www.cps.gov.uk/pps
  5. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.

    Publicity and the Criminal Justice System protocol