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We want to hear your views about our prosecution policy and so we conduct consultations to help inform our policy making.

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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

DPP enshrines victims' right to review of prosecution decisions

04/06/2013

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has today (5 June 2013) launched a new policy that enshrines a victim's right to request a review of any decision taken by the Crown Prosecution Service to not charge a suspect or to stop a prosecution.

Mr Starmer said: "The new Victims' Right to Review (VRR) policy is one of the most significant victim initiatives ever launched by the CPS. It provides victims with a straight-forward opportunity to ask the CPS to look again at a decision to not start, or to stop, a prosecution. It not only demonstrates how attitudes to victims have changed; it also clearly shows how the CPS has changed.

"The criminal justice system historically treated victims as bystanders and accordingly gave them little say in their cases. The decisions of prosecutors were rarely reversed because it was considered vital that decisions, even when later shown to be questionable, were final and could be relied upon. This approach was intended to inspire confidence, but in reality it had the opposite effect. Refusing to admit mistakes can seriously undermine public trust in the criminal justice system.

"It is now recognised by the criminal justice system that the interests of justice and the rights of the victim can outweigh the suspect's right to certainty. This is already reflected in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, but more needs to be done to correct this historic imbalance and ensure that the people affected by our decisions can hold us to account. Victims' Right to Review is a major step in the right direction. It recognises that victims are active participants in the criminal justice process, with both interests to protect and rights to enforce."

Any victim of crime, which includes bereaved family members or other representatives, can now ask the CPS to look again at a case following a decision not to charge, to discontinue proceedings or offer no evidence. Those entitled to an enhanced service under the Victims' Code will also be offered a discussion with a prosecutor about the outcome of the review.

Mr Starmer continued: "These reviews will be an entirely fresh examination of all the evidence and circumstances of a case. If a charge is justified and there are no legal barriers to prosecution, the mistake will be put right. Making fair decisions and delivering justice is the priority."

Javed Khan, chief executive of independent charity Victim Support, said: "The Right to Review strengthens the rights of victims during the criminal justice process and is welcomed by Victim Support. Too often victims tell us that they don't have much of a voice in our justice system. This new initiative by the Crown Prosecution Service is a step in the right direction and will help to reposition victims back at the heart of our justice system."

The introduction of VRR scheme follows the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R v Killick (2011), in which the court stated "as a decision not to prosecute is in reality a final decision for a victim, there must be a right to seek a review of such a decision." The court also ruled that reversing a decision could be compatible with a suspect's rights.

The CPS only allows prosecutions to begin or continue if there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute. Decisions not to charge or stop a prosecution on either ground will be open to review.

A three-month public consultation on the scope and workings of the policy begins today.

In cases where a defendant has been formally acquitted at the Crown Court after a decision to offer no evidence, it would not normally be possible to reinstate proceedings. Prosecutors will, wherever possible, consult with victims before taking such decisions and in these cases, although it is not  possible to reverse the decision, the review will determine if the right decision was made and, if not, whether any lessons could be learned.

VRR does not apply to cases where the police have decided to take no further action and a file of evidence has not been submitted to the CPS.

Separately the DPP has strengthened the way the CPS deals with cases that do not come within the scope of the VRR scheme by appointing Stephen Shaw CBE as the CPS's first Independent Assessor of Complaints. Mr Shaw will provide external oversight of complaints about all non-legal matters such as staff conduct and communication with victims or witnesses.

Mr Starmer said: "The new Independent Assessor of Complaints will ensure that we are equally transparent and accountable in all other aspects of our work. If a victim or witness has been let down by our organisation, Stephen Shaw will see that the right action is taken to address the problem."

Mr Shaw was the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman from 1999 to 2010 and chief executive of the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator from 2010 to 2012.

He added: "As the CPS's first Independent Assessor of Complaints, my role is to help ensure the CPS provides the best possible service to victims of crime and to witnesses in court cases. Independent oversight is the public's guarantee that all complaints will be properly investigated. No less important, when something is known to have gone wrong, I want the CPS to learn and act upon the lessons."

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. You can find out more about the Victims' Right to Review on the CPS website
  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.