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Prosecution guidance

Prosecution guidance assists Crown Prosecutors in their decision making.


The CPS prosecutes independently, fairly and works to deliver justice in every case.

The Code for Crown Prosecutors sets out the overarching principles to be followed by Crown Prosecutors when they make case decisions.

The purpose of the prosecution guidance is to assist Crown Prosecutors in applying the Code when exercising prosecutorial discretion in their decision making. The guidance ensures that decisions are fair, transparent, and consistent.

How to access our prosecution guidance

The prosecution guidance can be accessed from the A-Z catalogue on all prosecution guidance pages, categorised by subject areas and offence types. You can also use the free text search option.

How we use terminology in our prosecution guidance

Language and terminology are important in the Criminal Justice System. Different organisations use a range of terms.


We use the term ‘victim’ in CPS prosecution guidance because it refers to crime in general, rather than specific cases. This is consistent with the terminology used in other publications like the Victims’ Code.

In prosecution guidance, ‘victim’ covers other terms such as ‘complainant,’ and ‘survivor.’ It describes:

  • a person who has made an allegation
  • a person who has experienced harm – including physical, mental, or emotional harm or economic loss, directly caused by a criminal offence
  • a close relative (or a nominated family spokesperson) of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence.

‘Suspect,’ ‘Defendant,’ and ‘Offender’

All CPS prosecution guidance uses the terms:

Suspect – to describe a person who is under consideration as the subject of formal criminal proceedings
Defendant – to describe a person who has been charged or summonsed
Offender – to describe a person who has admitted guilt with regards to the commission of an offence, or been found guilty in a court of law.


The use of any wording does not confer any finding or judgement on allegations made. All allegations will be dealt with impartially in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

Our prosecution guidance is currently under review to ensure that it meets these terminology conventions on use of ‘victim,’ ‘suspect,’ ‘defendant,’ and ‘offender.’

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