Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division (SCCTD)

The CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division deals with some of our most high profile and demanding cases.

There are three operational units within SCCTD:

    Special Crime Toggle accordion

    The team deals with sensitive cases such as deaths in custody, election offences and corporate manslaughter. As well as the police, they work alongside specialist investigators from organisations including the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Health and Safety Executive.

    Special Crime lawyers advise on and, where appropriate, prosecute some of the most sensitive and demanding cases across England and Wales. As well as high profile cases such as prosecutions related to the Hillsborough disaster, they manage cases which involve criminal allegations against police officers following investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. 

    The team has offices in York and London but the following types of cases will be referred to Special Crime from across England and Wales:

    • disasters
    • deaths in custody or following police contact
    • assisted suicide 
    • serious criminal allegations against police officers 
    • corporate manslaughter 
    • gross negligence medical manslaughter 
    • election offences 
    • cases involving high profile individuals such as MPs 
    • criminal allegations against CPS and National Crime Agency (NCA) employees, and 
    • leaks of confidential information by public officials to journalists

    The needs of victims and witnesses are a priority for us and it is now our practice, in appropriate cases, to invite victims or their families to meetings so we can update them on the progress of their cases and, once a decision is made, to explain its basis and answer any questions they may have.

    Counter Terrorism Toggle accordion

    The majority of the team’s work involves prosecuting terrorism cases, which have rapidly increased in number and complexity in recent years. They also deal with all allegations of incitement to racial and religious hatred, war crimes and crimes against humanity, official secrets cases, piracy and hijacking. 

    The Counter Terrorism Division is responsible for prosecuting all terrorism crimes and terrorist related offences in England and Wales. The Division has expanded in recent years, in response to the increase in the number, and complexity of cases. Terrorism offences are distinct from other types of crime in that individuals who commit them have political, religious racial and/or ideological motivations. The team works alongside specialist units in the Metropolitan Police, and are four other police Counter Terrorism Units (CTUs) around the country.

    While the majority of the Division’s caseload involves terrorism offences, it also deals with all allegations of:

    • incitement to racial and religious hatred 
    • stirring up hatred based on sexual orientation 
    • war crimes and crimes against humanity 
    • official secrets cases and 
    • piracy and hijacking.

    Appeals and Review (ARU) Toggle accordion

    This team provides a specialist service to the three most senior appellate courts in England and Wales - the Court of Appeal, the Administrative Court and the Supreme Court. They deal with judicial reviews, appeals against conviction or sentence and support the Attorney General’s Office in the Unduly Lenient Sentence appeals. ARU also has responsibility for the formal review stage of the Victims' Right to Review (VRR) Scheme.

    The unit:

    • conducts judicial reviews and case stated appeals in the Administrative Court in which the CPS is named as party, including judicial reviews of decisions made by local CPS Areas to prosecute or not to prosecute a case
    • conducts the majority of appeals against conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal, and
    • supports the Attorney General's Office in the administration of Unduly Lenient Sentence appeals
    • has responsibility for the centralised, formal review stage of the Victims' Right to Review (VRR) Scheme.

    ARU cases involve the practice of specialist civil as well as criminal law and procedure. They are often high profile, sensitive cases which can have an impact upon the development of case law and the wider criminal justice system as well as on the lives of the individuals directly involved.

    The VRR Scheme gives victims of crime and bereaved families a clear mechanism through which they can obtain a full reconsideration of certain decisions not to proceed with their case. The ARU is responsible for conducting these independent reviews in VRR cases where local resolution has not been possible.

    WHO’S WHO in counter terrorism and special crime division

    Sue Hemming

    Sue Hemming profile photoSue Hemming is the Head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division.

    Sue joined the CPS in 1988 and worked in Cambridgeshire before joining the CPS Casework Directorate in 2000 where she led one of the branches that specialised in Special Crime work and had the CPS lead for extradition. In September 2002 Sue took over responsibility for prosecuting terrorism, international crimes and official secrets. She was made the Head of the new Counter Terrorism Division when it was created in 2005 and was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list the same year.

    Sue took over the expanded Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division in April 2011, widening her responsibility to include the other complex and high profile casework such as deaths in custody, police corruption, corporate manslaughter and the appeals and review unit. Sue has worked closely with the police, intelligence services and others to develop policy and guidance and to build strong cases enabling the CPS to bring terrorists to justice across a range of developing threats. Since 2012, she has been closely involved in the Hillsborough investigations which have been the largest in English criminal history.

    Frank Ferguson

    Frank Ferguson profile photoFrank Ferguson is the Head of Special Crime.

    Frank Ferguson, a barrister, joined the CPS in 1992 as a legal trainee in Herts/Beds Area. He then became a Higher Courts Advocate and Unit Head in Norwich, before moving to CPS Direct between 2004 and 2006 as a legal manager.

    He was Chief Crown Prosecutor in Cambridgeshire from 2011 and subsequently Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for the East of England, with direct oversight of the most serious and complex cases.

    Frank has led national projects, such as the implementation of the Speaking to Witnesses at Court Guidance and is national lead for immigration crime.

    Before to moving to Special Crime, Frank was Deputy Head in the Specialist Fraud Division with responsibility for London.

    Deb Walsh

    Deb Walsh profile photoDeb Walsh is the Head of Counter Terrorism.

    Deb began prosecuting in 1985 in Merseyside County Prosecuting Solicitors’ Department which became part of the CPS in April 1986. In 2002 she began working on terrorism cases, and has handled many high profile cases, including the successful prosecutions of Saajid Badat (the shoe bomber) and the 21/7 bombers. Deb was junior counsel in the trials of the first prosecutions involving terrorist training camps.

    Deb has been Deputy Head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division Deb since 2011, and works with the team on the most serious and complex cases, while maintaining a small personal caseload. She also has lead responsibility for the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Read more about Terrorism

    Karen Harrold

    Karen Harrold profile photoKaren Harrold is head of the Appeals and Review Unit (ARU).

    Karen qualified as a Solicitor in private practice in Hampshire before joining the Crown Prosecution Service from its inception in 1986 and has worked in a number of CPS Areas handling the full range of criminal cases.  She also advised the Attorney General for four years on a wide range of criminal/civil law and policy issues including human rights, contempt and development of new legislation. 

    Karen then became Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wiltshire in 2004. In 2010, Karen was seconded to work with the Hillsborough Independent Panel providing legal advice to Panel Members and then returned to CPS HQ to advise the Director of Public Prosecutions on the most serious criminal cases and handle high profile projects.  She also became an Assistant Coroner in Hampshire in 2010 and later in West Sussex handling the full range of coronial cases including prison deaths and medical negligence inquests. 

    She became Head of the Appeals & Review Unit in 2017.