Crown Prosecution Service

What is the Crown Prosecution Service?

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is an independent judicial agency responsible for the preparation and presentation of criminal prosecutions in the UK.

In its role as the public prosecutor, the CPS works closely with the courts, the police and other agencies in the criminal justice system. This includes advising the police on potential prosecutions and assuming control of prosecutions initiated by the police.

The CPS is headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The DPP is appointed by the Attorney General, who is accountable to Parliament for the work of the CPS. The current head of the CPS (2012) is Keir Starmer QC..


The CPS was established under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, following the findings of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, chaired by Sir Cyril Philips, which were published in 1981.

The CPS was established in part to provide a counterbalance to increased police powers under the Police Powers and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and brought England and Wales in line with Scotland (which has an independent procurator fiscal) in having an independent prosecution service.

The 1985 Act itself followed a series of reports in the late 1970s and early 1980s recommending that the functions of investigating crime and prosecuting crime be kept separate. A Code for Crown Prosecutors, under the Act, stipulates that decisions taken by the CPS must be "fair and consistent", based on a two tier test of evidential sufficiency and public policy.

A revised Code for Crown prosecutors was published in 2000 to satisfy the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Following the recommendations of the Glidewell Report in 1998, the CPS was re-organised from 13 to 42 areas, to mirror the structure of the police service.

This position was reversed again in light of the 2010 Spending Review which will see the CPS budget reduce in real terms by 25% over the period 2011-12 to 2014-15. Efficiency savings introduced included relocating the London headquarters to less expensive premises and returning to a 13 Area structure from the previous 42.

Each of the 13 geographical Areas is headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP) who is responsible for the prosecution service in their Area and each CCP is supported by an Area Business Manager (ABM).

There is a 'virtual' 14th Area, CPS Direct, also headed by a CCP, which provides out-of-hours charging decisions to the police.

Two specialist casework groups – the Central Fraud Group and the Serious Crime Group - deal with the prosecution of all cases investigated by the Serious & Organised Crime Agency, UK Borders Agency and Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs. The Serious Crime Group comprises two divisions – Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism.

In January 2010 the CPS was merged with the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) to create a new public prosecutions service. In addition to being DPP, Keir Starmer was also appointed Director of Revenue and Customs Prosecutions (DRCP). A single management structure was formed with all members of RCPO staff becoming CPS employees.

Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) - an independent organisation – is responsible for inspecting, assessing and reporting on the operations of the CPS.


Since the inception of the CPS, it has been beset by funding problems and criticisms that it is centralised, bureaucratic, ineffective and too close to the police.

The most serious allegation against the CPS is that it has failed to fulfill its function as an independent body from the police, and has acquired a predisposition to prosecute.

This perceived lack of independence in some quarters has resulted from a variety of factors, but is mainly attributed to a lack of resources to investigate police files and reliance on the police 'gatekeepers' for information. This has led to criticisms that the CPS is merely facilitating the fulfillment of the police service's agenda, which is what the CPS was established to prevent.

Critics suggest that the accusatorial and inquisitorial roles of the CPS are incompatible, giving the CPS an anomalous position of working for the police, at the same time as having to work on them.


In 2010/11 the Crown Prosecution Service spent £614 million, less than £11.50 for every person in England and Wales.

During the year we made 466,611charging decisions.
We prosecuted nearly one million 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 727,491in the magistrates' courts. In total 86% of cases prosecuted resulted in a conviction.
In 2010/11, through the Witness Care Units that we jointly staff with the police, we supported 207,391 witnesses in attending court, achieving an attendance rate of 88%.

In 2010/11 we prosecuted 95,257 Violence Against Women cases, an increase of 11% on the year before, whilst maintaining a successful outcome rate of 72%.
Of these, 82,187 were domestic violence, an increase also of 11% on 2009-10, also maintaining successful outcome rate at 72%; 4,208 were rape defendants, an increase of 10% on the previous year, maintaining successful outcome rate at 59%; 8,862 were sexual offences, an increase also of 10% from 2009-10, with a slight fall in successful outcomes from 76% to 74%. Successful outcomes in rape cases include cases initially charged as rape, but where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence.

In 2009/10 we implemented a formal process of advocacy assessment, a first for the criminal justice system. In 2010/11, over 1,000 advocacy assessments were undertaken with over 96% meeting the required standard.

In 2010/11 we implemented 12 Core Quality Standards which define the level of service the CPS is committed to providing to the public in every key aspect of its work. We reviewed 205,686 commitments across more than 15,000 cases, with almost 80% fully meeting our high standard.

Source: CPS Annual Report and Resource Accounts – 2011


"The Bar and the CPS are committed to working in harmony together, serving the interests of the criminal justice system, and ensuring the highest possible standards of advocacy and case preparation in the criminal courts in England and Wales."

Bar Council - Framework of Principles for Prosecution Advocates in the Crown Court

"The prosecution service is strong; focused and capable of excellent standards of delivery. It is time now to build on that secure platform and to embed the public prosecution service at the heart of delivering criminal justice in the 21st century."

Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions

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