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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

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CPS to intervene in private prosecution of Gateshead art exhibition

10/11/2008

A private prosecution of Gateshead's Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art for allegedly outraging public decency has been discontinued by CPS Northumbria.

Nicola Reasbeck, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: "The CPS recognises the right to bring a private prosecution and we do not take over a case unless there is a good reason to do so.

"Under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, which set up the CPS, we have the right to take over a private prosecution and prosecute it ourselves, take it over and stop the case, or allow the private prosecution to continue.

"It is necessary to construe the offence of outraging public decency in a way that is compatible with the right of freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Having considered the evidence in this case with great care, we are satisfied that there is no case to answer. We have taken into account all the circumstances, including the fact that there was no public disorder relating to the exhibition and that there was a warning at the entrance to the gallery about the nature of the work on display. The case has therefore been discontinued."

The private prosecution was commenced at Gateshead Magistrates' Court in July 2008 by Emily Mapfuwa, who alleged that an offence of outraging public decency had been committed by exhibiting a statue of Jesus Christ with an oversized erect phallus at the Baltic Art Gallery.

At a hearing on 2 September 2008, the representatives for the Baltic Flour Mills Visual Arts Trust elected trial by jury and proceedings were adjourned for a committal to Crown Court.

  1. For national media inquiries contact the CPS Press Office, 020 7796 8180. Local media inquiries contact Group Communications Manager for the North East, 0191 260 4384.
  2. Information on the CPS website about private prosecutions:
  3. Proceedings were started on 9 July 2008 when Emily Mapfuwa laid information before Gateshead magistrates alleging the offence of outraging public decency together with an alleged offence contrary to section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 committed "on dates between 21 September 2007 and 20 January 2008". Although a summons was issued for both offences, the Public Order Act offence was withdrawn at a hearing on 2 September 2008 as it was not started within the six month time limit.
  4. The particulars of the offence were: On dates between 21 September 2007 and 20 January 2008 the Baltic Flour Mills Visual Arts Trust committed an act of a lewd and disgusting nature and outraged public decency, by behaving in an indecent manner by displaying a statue of Jesus Christ which had attached to it an oversized erect phallus.
  5. The case is set down as Emily Mapfuwa (Informant) v Baltic Flour Mills Visual Arts Trust (Defendant).
  6. The committal proceedings were adjourned to allow the CPS to consider the case. The next date of hearing was due to be 11 November 2008.
  7. The exhibition at the Baltic Centre consisted of 74 vitrines displaying statuettes or ornaments which have been coated in white acrylic and wax. One such item was a statue of Jesus with a phallus attached. Other figures representing Mickey Mouse, ET and a garden gnome were also displayed with similar attachments.
  8. 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

    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 85.1% in 2007-2008.

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