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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

CPS out of hours service delivers half a million charging decisions


CPS Direct, the Crown Prosecution Service department set up to provide the police with out of hours advice on charging decisions, has now provided its half-millionth decision to police officers in England and Wales.

Around 35 per cent of all CPS pre-charge decisions in 2007-2008 were made by prosecutors at CPS Direct.

Martin Goldman, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Direct, said:

"This is a significant milestone for CPS Direct. In the five years since CPS Direct launched we have made a major contribution to improving the way that the CPS works with the police to deal with criminals around the clock.

"Our prosecutors answer more than 3000 calls per week from police officers across England and Wales. On average, officers receive a charging decision in less than 45 minutes.

"By providing early, professional legal advice we enable the strongest possible case to be built and ensure offenders are charged with the right offences. By working more closely together, the CPS and the police make the best of our respective skills and ensure that more offences are brought to justice."

The decision to determine the charges to be brought against a suspect in all but the most minor cases was transferred from the police to the CPS under legislation introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and became fully operational under this statutory charging scheme in 2006.

CPS data from October 2008 shows that, in cases where the police seek a charging decision, cases discontinued decreased from 36 per cent before the introduction of statutory charging to 13 per cent. Guilty pleas have increased by 34 per cent to 74.4%


  1. Statutory Charging was introduced in response to recommendations made by Lord Justice Auld in his 'Review of the Criminal Courts in England and Wales' published in October 2001. He recommended that the CPS should determine the charge to be brought against a suspect in all but minor routine cases, ensuring the correct charge from the outset and weeding out non-viable cases at an early stage. Statutory Charging was rolled out across all forces in England and Wales, a year ahead of schedule by March 2006.
  2. The Crown Prosecution Service operates under a structure of 42 geographical areas in England and Wales. CPS Direct is a virtual 43rd Area that affords the police access to 24/7 charging decisions from the Crown Prosecution Service outside of office hours. CPS Direct currently uses 143 lawyers.
  3. Established as a pilot project in September 2003, CPS Direct has been responsible for providing out of hours charging advice to all police forces across England and Wales since April 2006 as part of the Statutory Charging scheme. It provides this service through a network of experienced CPS prosecutors. These prosecutors are based at home, and are linked to the police by a high speed IT and telephony network. CPSD operates 5 pm-9 am, Monday to Friday and 24 hours a day at weekends and Public Holidays.
  4. More information about CPS Direct is available on the CPS Direct website
  5. 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
  6. Details of the half millionth charging decision are available on request. All media enquiries to CPS press office on 020 7796 8127 or 020 7796 8102.