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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

Closer working on prosecution cases involving undercover police officers as agreement is signed between investigators and prosecutors


A memorandum of understanding (MOU) to ensure consistent and thorough handling of cases involving undercover officers where there may be a criminal prosecution has been signed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The agreement, signed in June 2012, directs that close and early working between relevant organisations takes place so that the best evidence is gathered for prospective court cases, and more criminals are brought to justice. 

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC said: "Evidence from undercover policing is a powerful tool in prosecution cases, but it is one that must be wielded with great care and responsibility.

"This agreement ensures that investigators and prosecutors work closely together from the very outset of any relevant covert operations and that all necessary actions are carried out and documented, so that this very complex area of law is consistently and thoroughly adhered to by all those involved."

ACPO undercover working group chair Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan said: "Undercover officers play a critical role gathering evidence and intelligence to protect communities from harm. It is one of the most challenging areas of operational activity undertaken by the police service and as such ensuring close and early working with relevant organisations is key to ensuring best evidence and justice outcomes."

The MoU applies whenever:

  1. There is a use and conduct authorisation for the deployment of an undercover officer under Part II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
  2. The undercover officer has been authorised in circumstances in which a prosecution is contemplated, or where it has become apparent that there is the clear potential for a prosecution.
  3. The investigation is being carried out (alone or jointly) by any ACPO police force, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the UK Border Agency or Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs; and
  4. Any prosecution or advice on a possible prosecution would fall to be considered by the Crown Prosecution Service.

This MoU will be reviewed after it has been in place for 6 months, so that its implementation and impact can be assessed.


Notes to Editors

  1. The defendants were charged with obstructing engines or carriages on railways, an offence under section 36 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861.
  2.  22 of the 29 individuals were convicted on 3 July 2009 at Leeds Crown Court after trial. The remaining seven pleaded guilty on different dates: five on 29 June 2009, one on 3 July 2009 and one on 4 September 2009 (the day of sentencing). 
  3. The legal representative of the defendants raised their concerns with the DPP in a letter on 17 August 2011. The case was then reviewed by a senior CPS lawyer, who reported her findings to the DPP on 12 January 2012. Brian Altman QC, first senior treasury counsel, was then instructed to review the case. He provided his advice to the DPP on 3 April 2012 
  4. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Hugh Orde OBE QPM (Association of Chief Police Officers), Trevor Pearce QPM (Serious Organised Crime Agency) and Donald Toon (HM Revenue & Customs) in June 2012 and is now in force.
  5. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  6. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  7. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Division, Special Crime and Counter Terrorism, and Organised Crime. From 1 September 2011, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) prosecution function was transferred to the CPS.  A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  8. In 2010-2011 the CPS employed around 7,745 people and prosecuted 957,881 cases with 116,898 of these in the Crown Court, and the remaining 840,983 in the magistrates' courts. Of those we prosecuted, 93,106 defendants were convicted in the Crown Court and 727,491 in the magistrates' courts. In total 86% of cases prosecuted resulted in a conviction. Further information can be found on the CPS website.
  9. 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. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.