Crown prosecution guilty of breaching the human rights act
07 April 2011 12:00 AM

Crown Prosecution Service

07 April 2011

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 Crown Prosecution Service 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 Crown Prosecution Service 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 Extradition Act 2003 tasks the CPS with representing foreign states in extradition proceedings, normally heard at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. While it acts on the foreign prosecutor’s instructions, the CPS retains a discretion on how the case should be prosecuted.

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.

Failure to prosecute crime
Critics of the CPS point to the fact that despite the level of crime rising, the level of prosecutions being brought by the CPS has been falling.

In the year ending March 2019, 5.3 million crimes were recorded by police in England and Wales, compared with 3.9 million in 2011/12. The figures are not directly comparable over time, as recording practices change, although there has evidently been a rise in recorded crime. Nonetheless, over the same period, the number of prosecutions brought by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) fell by 46%.

It has been suggested that the reduction in prosecutions is a function of a drop in referrals by the police. But for critics of the CPS, the figures are indicative of a system that is not working effectively to prosecute crime.

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