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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

DPP's plan for a fair, fearless and effective public prosecution service

23/07/2009

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, QC, has today published his plan for taking forward the public prosecution service, at the heart of the criminal justice service.

Mr Starmer said: "Times have changed since the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was set up in 1986. Crime has changed; the approach to combating criminal behaviour has changed; and society's expectations of its prosecution service have changed. We are in a good place, but I believe it is time to move on and I want to encourage debate about the way forward to achieve a better service for the public.

"With the merger of the CPS and the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office, a new public prosecution service is emerging which, like any progressive organisation, must always be looking to improve. I believe it must be focused on protecting the public, delivering justice and supporting victims and witnesses.

"Now is the time for some radical re-thinking about criminal justice. For too long we have been part of a criminal justice system. That needs to change. Criminal justice should not be a system; it should be a service. And developing criminal justice from a system to a service is now a priority."

Mr Starmer has set out the way forward in a document called: The Public Prosecution Service: setting the standard. In it, he says that to take the prosecution service to a new level of effectiveness, responsiveness and transparency, publicly facing core quality standards will be introduced.

He said: "These standards will define a new relationship between the the prosecution service and the public. They will lay down the minimum in terms of quality and delivery that the public is entitled to expect from those who prosecute on its behalf. They will make us truly accountable to the communities we serve.

"They will cover every major aspect of our work: from protecting the public to advising the investigator, through to defining the standards of service in respect of every aspect of the prosecutor's role in court; and from supporting victims and witnesses to dealing with complaints."

Mr Starmer also highlighted the new community prosecutor approach.

"We are putting prosecutors firmly within their local communities so that they know the types of crime that cause most local concern and are able to take the public's views into account in their decisions and in the information they place before the courts.

"By using our real life knowledge we will be able to inform lawmakers about the issues which really affect local communities so that we can advise on new laws that are needed or on those which are no longer relevant in today's society."

Mr Starmer also gave details of some of the real challenges ahead which needed to be tackled as a matter of urgency:

  • The need for out-of-court disposals to be properly regulated, consistently applied and publicly transparent; to be used as fully as the law allows;
  • The need for effective listing of cases in court, to avoid courts putting down several trials for the same day in case a defendant changes their plea to guilty;
  • The need to recognise that the Crown Court is predominantly a sentencing court (73 per cent of cases are guilty pleas) and to take a fresh look at how best to conduct business there;
  • The need to use resources efficiently to ensure best value for money and identifying how all the criminal justice agencies can work together to maximise resources and meet society's expectations.

For a modern public prosecution service, it is important that technology fully supports the workforce. Mr Starmer said: "The electronic case file will allow all the current paperwork that supports a case to be made available electronically to all those who need to see it. It is high time for that electronic case file and for electronic case management systems to become the main currency in the criminal justice service."

The aim, said Mr Starmer, is for the public prosecution service to build on its base as an organisation that is strong, focused and capable of excellent standards of delivery. He said: "We will become a service judged by its results with a commitment to excellence at its core, and the public will be able to assess our success.

"Fair, fearless and effective; open, honest and transparent, protective, supportive and independent; these are the qualities that the public has a right to expect of its public prosecution service; we are determined to meet those expectations.

"At the same time, the whole criminal justice service needs to move forward together. The prosecution service cannot work on this alone. The document, The Public Prosecution Service: setting the standard, is to spark a wider debate. I encourage everyone to take part."

Ends

  1. For further details contact CPS Press Office, 020 7796 8180.
  2. The merger of Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office and the CPS, was announced on 2 April 2009 by the Attorney General.
  3. Public Prosecution Service: setting the standard is on the CPS website
  4. 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
  5. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition there are four specialised national divisions: Organised Crime, Special Crime, Counter-Terrorism and the Fraud Prosecution Service. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,400 people and prosecuted 1,091,250 cases with an overall conviction rate of 85.1% in 2007-2008. Further information can be found on our website.
    More about the CPS
  6. 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.