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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

Support for Victims and Witnesses

Being a victim or a witness to a crime is not easy, but, with your help, we work hard to bring offenders to justice. Throughout the justice process we will support you and treat you with dignity.

The aim of witness care units is to provide a single point of contact for Victims and Witnesses, minimising the stress of attending court and keeping  victims and witnesses up to date with any news in a way that is convenient to them.

Witnesses are essential to successful prosecutions and we are committed to making the process as straightforward as we can.

Read the fact sheet about witness care units

Find out more about being a witness

Frequently asked questions from the media

On what basis was the decision made to prosecute or not to prosecute?

All decisions on whether to charge or continue to prosecute are made in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. We have to decide if there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and if it is in the public interest to prosecute. We only prosecute when both evidential and public interest tests are satisfied.

Find out more about the decision to charge.

Find out more about charging decisions in driving offences involving death.

Can the CPS appeal against the sentence imposed by the court?

There is no right of appeal against a sentence imposed by a Magistrates' Court. Whilst the CPS has no direct right of appeal against a sentence imposed by the Crown Court, the Attorney General is responsible for referring Crown Court sentences for certain serious offences to the Court of Appeal if he believes that a sentence may be unduly lenient. The power applies only to sentences that are unduly lenient and not to sentences that are simply lenient.

A sentence is unduly lenient: " ... where it falls outside the range of sentences which the judge, applying his mind to all the relevant factors, could reasonably consider appropriate."

There must have been some error of principle in the judge's sentence, such that, in the absence of the sentence being altered by the Court, public confidence would be damaged.  The court should only grant leave in exceptional circumstances, and not in borderline cases.

If the CPS feels a sentence may be unduly lenient, the CPS will draw it to the attention of the Attorney General for his consideration. Any member of the public may also draw the sentence to the attention of the Attorney General.

Find out more about the legal guidance for unduly lenient sentences

Does CPS have a right of appeal against other decisions made by the court?

Bail: the CPS has right of appeal against the decision of a Magistrates' Court to grant bail where the offence is punishable by imprisonment. For further details, please see national legal guidance on bail. The CPS generally has no right of appeal against the decision of the Crown Court to grant bail. In exceptional circumstances the CPS may consider applying to the High Court for Judicial Review of the bail decision. The power of the High Court to alter the decision is exercised very sparingly and the power may not be available once the defendants case has been sent to the Crown Court.

Terminating rulings: section 58 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides an interlocutory prosecution right of appeal to the Court of Appeal against certain rulings made by a Crown Court judge. The ruling must have the effect of terminating the case so that there can be no further prosecution. Examples of rulings which have the effect of terminating the case include ruling that there is no case to answer and decisions to stay the indictment for abuse of process. For further details, please see national legal guidance on terminating rulings

Appeals to the administrative court (Judicial Review and Case Stated): Please see national legal guidance. CPS has a limited right of appeal against decisions of a Magistrates' Court and a very narrow range of decisions of the Crown Court. The challenge must be a point of law or on the basis that the decision is one which no reasonable court should have made.

Attorney Generals reference on a point of law: Where a person tried at the Crown Court has been acquitted on all or part of an indictment, the Attorney General has the discretion to seek the opinion of the Court of Appeal on a point of law which has arisen in the case (Section 36(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1972). The procedure does not constitute an appeal- the acquittal of the defendant must always stand following the hearing at the Court of Appeal. For further details, please see national legal guidance

Why has CPS taken over this private prosecution?

We recognise that the right to bring a private prosecution should remain and that we should not take over a private prosecution unless there is a good reason to do so for the public good.
Find out more about private prosecutions