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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

Wife guilty of fraud and money laundering in "canoe man" case

23/07/2008

Anne Darwin was today convicted of offences of fraud and money laundering over the disappearance and faked death of her husband John, bringing to an end one of the most unusual cases ever handled by Cleveland Crown Prosecution Service.

Gerry Wareham, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Cleveland, said: "This is a case which seized the public imagination, which is understandable since the facts as they have emerged have been unusual and at times intriguing.

"However, this was a serious offence of fraud involving considerable sums of money. The plot was carefully calculated to deceive the authorities, family and friends, including their own sons, who were led to believe for several years that their father was dead.

"It is due to the hard work and professionalism of the investigating officers and prosecution lawyers working together as a team that we have been able to prove Mrs. Darwin's complicity. It is clear from the verdict that the jury believe she is as much to blame as her husband."

The wife of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin pleaded not guilty to the charges and used the unusual defence of "marital coercion" at her trial at Teesside Crown Court, meaning she was pressured into fraudulent acts by her husband.

Gale Gilchrist, a Crown Advocate at Cleveland CPS, who acted as junior counsel during the trial, said: "When John Darwin turned up "from the dead" before Christmas last year it was seen at first as an amusing story for the festive season.

"But this was a callous and calculated fraud. The Darwins were willing to deceive family and friends and to waste considerable resources of the emergency services, all to maintain a lie that John Darwin had died and then exploit any compassion extended to them.

"We will now be working together with the police to ensure that all the profits of the crime currently held by the Darwins are confiscated."

  1. John Darwin was reported missing in the sea off Seaton Carew in March 2002. In April 2003, a coroner recorded an open verdict at an inquest into his death. John Darwin pleaded guilty to seven charges of deception and a passport offence in March 2008.
  2. Media enquiries to CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8127 or local office on 01642 204516.
  3. The Crown Prosecution Service is the Government Department 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;
    • Presentation of cases at court;

    The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). 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 83.7% in 2006-2007.

    More about the CPS

    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