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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

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.

Find out more about private prosecutions

Crown Prosecution Service to strengthen support to victims of Female Genital Mutilation


"The justification for the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is often cited as a tradition, an initiation into adulthood or a religious practice. It is in fact, a serious crime which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment." says Manjula Nayee, Senior Policy Advisor at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The Crown Prosecution Service has today issued new guidance that sets out the legal elements of FGM and the challenges prosecutors may face in bringing a case to court, particularly when a victim may retract her evidence due to social and cultural pressures.

Ms Nayee said: "We are working, as part of our commitment to the cross-Government action plan to end Violence against Women, to reassure communities that if those affected by FGM come forward, we can help."

The practice, often known as female circumcision, is estimated to affect up to 140 million girls and women worldwide with over 80,000 who could be at risk in England and Wales.

Ms Nayee continued: "This guidance gives prosecutors a better understanding of the cultural background surrounding the illegal practice, which has been carried out for many years."

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it clear that if any British Citizen or UK resident involved in arranging or carrying out this crime abroad will be liable for prosecution.

Ms Nayee said: "Our aim is to bring strong cases to court, with prosecutors working closely with the police to investigate where appropriate whether victims have been taken abroad.

"Prosecutors should also consider  evidence from social services, schools or Local Authorities, who may have crucial information to help build up a case.

"Some defendents may claim they have carried out this crime for medical reasons. Prosecutors will look for expert advice from medical professionals on this issue."

Sue Inwood, Detective Chief Inspector in the Continuous Improvement Team in the Metropolitan Police Service said: "Project Azure, the Metropolitan Police's response to FGM, welcomes these new guidelines which will serve to heighten awareness amongst prosecutors of this practice and also to clarify best practice in this challenging area of investigation."

Ms Nayee concluded: "The Crown Prosecution Service hopes that publication of this guidance will both raise awareness of this serious crime and help prosecutors bring perpetrators to justice."


Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. Read the revised guidance
  3. FGM is a collective term for a range of procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is sometimes referred to as female circumcision, or female genital cutting. The names FGM or 'cut' are increasingly used at the community level, although they are still not always understood by individuals in practicing communities, largely because they are English terms. Other terms for FGM include the Somali 'Gudnin' and the Sudanese 'Tahur'.
  4. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  5. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Group, Special Crime and Counter-Terrorism, and Organised Crime. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  6. The CPS employs around 8,316 people and prosecuted 982,731 cases with a conviction rate of 86.8% in the magistrates' courts and 80.7% in the Crown Court in 2009-20010. Further information can be found on the CPS website.
  7. 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. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.