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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

Charging announcement regarding The Spectator magazine


CPS London Chief Crown Prosecutor Alison Saunders said: "The Crown Prosecution Service has today (9 May 2012) informed the publishers of The Spectator magazine of our decision to charge them with an offence under Section 83 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, in relation to an article by Rod Liddle about the recent Stephen Lawrence trial.

"On 24 November 2011 the Attorney General referred an article published in The Spectator magazine to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration of whether a reporting restrictions Order in place at the time had been breached.

"The article in question was dated 19 November 2011 and came during the trial of Gary Dobson and David Norris who were accused, and subsequently convicted, of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The Judge, Mr Justice Treacy, referred the article to the Attorney General for consideration under his contempt powers.

"Due to the intense media interest in this case an Order under Section 82 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 prohibiting publication of certain assertions about the defendants was in place. This Order was imposed by the Court of Appeal on 18 May 2011 and was continued at the commencement of the trial on 14 November 2011.

"Having applied the full code test in the Code for Crown Prosecutors I have taken the decision that there is a realistic prospect of conviction. The Attorney General has determined that it is in the public interest to proceed and he has given his consent to this prosecution.

"Where a charge is brought under Section 83 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the publication is a newspaper or periodical, the proprietor, editor or publisher may be liable for the offence, and not the author.

"Accordingly, a summons against the publisher of the magazine, The Spectator (1828) Ltd, has been obtained from City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, and the first hearing will be on 7 June 2012."