Advanced Search

Reviews leading to the formation of the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office and its subsequent merger with CPS

Gower Hammond Review

The Gower Hammond Review, conducted by His Honour John Gower QC and Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC, followed the failure of two major drugs prosecutions conducted by HMCE in the late 1990s. The review considered the structure and practices of the Prosecutions Group within HMCE's Solicitors Office and made a number of recommendations for its future.

The Gower Hammond Review identified the need for the prosecutors to be independent of the investigators to ensure that they felt able to exercise their professional judgment when dealing with their cases. It recommended that the Prosecutions Group should be given greater autonomy within HMCE's Solicitors Office, and that it should have its own budget and be accountable to the Attorney General alone.

The Prosecutions Group was renamed the Customs and Excise Prosecutions Office (CEPO). A memorandum of understanding that clearly set out the relationship between the Attorney General, CEPO and the Commissioners of Customs and Excise was agreed.

Butterfield Review

The restructuring proposed in the Gower Hammond Review had just been completed when new appeals in a group of major excise fraud cases, collectively known as London City Bond, were launched. Serious allegations of non-disclosure were made against HMCE and in a number of instances these appeals were successful.

As a consequence, ministers asked Mr Justice Butterfield to look at how the mistakes (in both investigation and prosecution) made during the London City Bond cases had occurred and how they could be avoided in the future. A key finding of the subsequent Butterfield Review was that it was vital to build on the progress made since the Gower Hammond Review and to take the development of CEPO even further. In his report, Mr Justice Butterfield stated:

"I am satisfied that much of the necessary ground work has been done and that personnel and machinery has been, or is being put in place to achieve the changes HMCE need to make. There is much that is good and some that is excellent within the present department. But the task is not yet complete."

He recommended:

"...a complete separation of the prosecuting function for HMCE's criminal cases from the organisation itself, through the creation of a separate prosecuting authority."

This recommendation was accepted by the Government in December 2003.

The O'Donnell Review

Meanwhile, the Treasury conducted its own review of HMCE and the Inland Revenue. The O'Donnell Review concluded that the most efficient and beneficial way to collect tax would be to merge the two. In Budget 2004, the Chancellor announced that the new department would be known as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

In line with this wider merger of functions, the Attorney General announced in October 2004 that the Inland Revenue prosecutions would join the new independent prosecuting authority and that the new authority would be known as the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO).

In announcing the name of the new authority, Lord Goldsmith said:

"The new Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office, accountable to me, will be an entirely separate prosecuting authority, responsible for the prosecution of all HM Revenue and Customs cases in England and Wales. The creation of the RCPO is an important step which will ensure that we have an effective and fully independent prosecuting authority, dealing with many of the most important cases in the criminal justice system. It will play a vital role in shaping the criminal justice system of the future."

RCPO was launched on 18 April 2005 and incorporated into the CPS on 1 January 2010.

Top of page