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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

Sexual Offences

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 updated the law, much of which dated back to 1956.

The main provisions of the Act include the following:

  • Rape is widened to include oral penetration
  • Significant changes to the issue of consent
  • Specific offences relating to children under 13, 16 and 18
  • Offences to protect vulnerable persons with a mental disorder
  • Other miscellaneous offences
  • Strengthening the notification requirements and providing new civil preventative orders

Find out more about how we prosecute sexual offences

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Record year for convictions in Violence against Women and Girls


In the second year of record conviction rates for rape and domestic violence for the CPS, analysis indicates that convictions have also improved in every other area of recorded Violence against Women and Girls prosecutions.

Overall this year, three out of four cases of Violence against Women and Girls resulted in convictions. Conviction rates also went up in cases of domestic violence, rape and other sexual offences, forced marriage, honour based violence, child abuse and human trafficking. The CPS has achieved its highest ever rape and domestic violence conviction rates, with 63.2% of rape prosecutions and 74.3% of domestic violence prosecutions resulting in successful outcomes in 2012-13.

These improvements mark a decade of change with some of the most fundamental shifts in approach to prosecuting that the CPS has implemented. Outlining some of the achievements of the past ten years, the Director of Public Prosecutions will be speaking to an audience at the national charity Women's Aid Annual Conference on 11 July 2012. Women's Aid has played an important ongoing role in the development of the CPS's approach to these crimes since becoming members of the first External Consultation Group on domestic violence more than ten years ago.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC said today: "The evidence is clear that ten years of progress is paying off and not only are the conviction rates steadily increasing, but our service to victims is also improving. These results send a powerful message to perpetrators that they are more likely than ever to be convicted for their crimes.

"Our focus over the last few years has been honed to understand the vulnerability and intimidation of victims, and the fact that we continue to see fewer cases fail because victims no longer support the prosecution indicates they have growing confidence in what we do.

"Similarly, the considerable rise in the proportion of rape cases that we charge indicates that we are building stronger cases which lead to more guilty pleas - which not only saves the court time and resources, but more importantly, spares the victim the need to relive their experience in court."

In domestic violence cases the proportion of guilty pleas rose to 68.5% of all cases charged, which means 92% of convictions are now the result of guilty pleas. Cases charged which were unsuccessful due to victim issues also went down this year (13.5% to 13.2% in 2012-13) which indicates that efforts to improve victim confidence are working.

Of rape cases referred to the CPS by police, a noticeable improvement was the increase in the proportion which are charged (42.1% to 47.2% in 2012-13) which may reflect the shift in approach taken by prosecutors more recently.

Although the numbers of cases are low, we have also seen real improvements in tackling forced marriage and honour based violence. In 2012-13, forced marriage cases resulted in 70.7% convictions, up from just 54.8% in the previous year. Convictions for honour-based violence have gone up to 63.0% from 50.0% in the previous year. Progress has also been made in the handling of child abuse, human trafficking and plans are in hand across the criminal justice system for improved handling of female genital mutilation cases.

Mr Starmer added: "There is no doubt that until recently the criminal justice system was failing women and girls. For example ten years ago, less than half the domestic violence cases that we prosecuted ended in convictions - that has gone up to three in four today. Changes, particularly in the past five years, are the result of a sustained effort across the entire organisation.

"This past year has brought about some of the most significant changes of all in terms of how we view victims of these abhorrent crimes. Although there is still some way to go, victims should feel that the criminal justice system is now one that listens to them, supports them, and most importantly, believes them."

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women's Aid said: "We welcome the increase in conviction rates for domestic and sexual violence in the past twelve months, and feel it reflects the increasing seriousness with which the CPS is addressing violence against women and girls. There is evidence of a real commitment to improving the policies and responses of the CPS at a senior level and significant advancements have been made. However, still too few cases reach prosecution. Effective prosecution is essential to sending a strong message to perpetrators that domestic violence is never acceptable, and helps to build confidence in the judicial system."

Key achievements this year in the development of our approach to prosecuting VaWG offences include:

  • New interim guidance on dealing with child sexual abuse which focuses on better understanding of victims' vulnerabilities and credibility - and is currently the subject of a public consultation
  • The establishment of a national panel to reconsider previous child sex abuse cases, and a national network of specialist prosecutors
  • An action plan on tackling female genital mutilation
  • Dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offence Units being rolled out in every CPS Area
  • Joint CPS and police checklist for charging domestic violence issued to police and prosecutors
  • Training has now been delivered to nearly 900 specialist rape prosecutors
  • National scrutiny panel held on teenage relationship abuse to look at dispelling myths associated with such cases
  • Greater understanding of the reasons and rarity of false rape and domestic violence allegations


Notes to Editors

  1. The sixth CPS Violence against Women and Girls crime report 2012-2013 is available on the CPS website
  2. CPS data on rape prosecutions include cases which were initially charged and flagged as rape, but where a conviction may have been obtained for another offence
  3. Conviction rates are available for the following VAWG crimes:
    Conviction rates for:
    Domestic violence - 74.3% (up from 73.3%)
    Rape - 63.2% (up from 62.5%)
    Other sexual offences - 76.8% (up from 75.7%)
    Honour-based violence - 63.0% (up from 50.0% - please note the volume of cases is low)
    Forced Marriage - 70.7% (up from 54.8% - please note the volume of cases is low)
    Child abuse (including homicide, offences against the person and sexual offences) - 75.1% (up from 74.3%)
    Human trafficking - 71.2% (up from 66.2% - please note the volume of cases is low)
  4. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  5. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.