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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

DPP invites responses to proposed new Code for Crown Prosecutors


Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, has today launched a consultation on a proposed new edition of the Code for Crown Prosecutors (the Code). The Code is the overarching document that all prosecutors follow in deciding whether or not a suspect should be charged.

Mr Starmer said: "This version of the Code is intended to help the CPS take a more focused, proportionate and effective approach to bringing criminals to justice. The Code is an important document which governs all prosecution decisions made by police and prosecutors, so I warmly invite everyone interested to respond to the public consultation.

"The CPS has developed even in the time I have been DPP. In 2012 we have a much broader remit and have recently taken on prosecutions previously conducted by HM Revenue and Customs, Defra and DWP and we continue to prosecute cases referred by the 42 police forces in England and Wales, IPCC, SOCA and others. The Code needs to work for every one of our diverse range of specialist prosecutors, so now is the time to reposition it as an overarching statement of principles, sitting above the wealth of specific legal guidance and policies on individual policy and casework areas.

"The CPS handles 900,000 defendants each year, and it is critical that we have the most effective, proportionate and focussed approach possible to dealing with criminality. I want to see a stronger, smarter CPS, continuing to prosecute robustly and bringing offenders to justice for the good of the public and victims. I think this new Code will help us meet that aim."

The draft of the version of the Code for public consultation includes:

  • A more succinct format to avoid duplication with existing legal guidance in key areas;
  • A new section bringing into sharper focus the need for considerations of the admissibility, reliability and credibility of evidence;
  • A streamlined approach to deciding whether or not it is in the public interest for a suspect to be prosecuted, including broad questions to consider rather than a long list of particular factors;
  • Questions for prosecutors about the seriousness of the offending, the culpability of the suspect and the impact on victims and community; and
  • A question within the public interest section asking prosecutors to consider whether bringing a prosecution is proportionate to the likely outcome.  

Mr Starmer continued:

"The changes to the public interest considerations in this draft aim to direct prosecutors to think about the particular circumstances of the case they are working on, rather than to consider the previous list of pre-determined generalised factors."

Speaking about the addition of proportionality into the Code, re-added having previously been in the versions of the Code in 1986 and 1992, Mr Starmer said: "Proportionality is about ensuring that we and the police are choosing the right cases to prosecute from the start, and doing so in the most effective way. Where cases are complex prosecutors should ensure prosecutions are focused. There may be cases - for example where a court might convict a defendant but decide not to record that conviction by giving an absolute discharge - where police officers or prosecutors might anticipate that a prosecution is not a proportionate way to approach the criminality.

"A common sense approach will ensure the right cases are brought before the courts, and those that shouldn't be prosecuted are not introduced to the system only to later be withdrawn."

This is the second edition of the Code issued by Mr Starmer, and the seventh to date. The sixth version of the Code remains in place and is available on the CPS website.

The consultation, which can also be found on this website, closes on 10 October 2012.


Notes to Editors

  1. The addition of proportionality follows prosecutorial Codes in New Zealand, Canada and Australia and is not new in England and Wales: the Codes from 1986 and 1992 contained references to proportionality
  2. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  3. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  4. 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. In 2011-2012, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health (DoH) prosecution functions were transferred to the CPS. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.