The functions of the Crown Prosecution Service

Crown Prosecution Service

The establishment of 1986, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was brought about by 1985, Prosecution of Offences Act and 1984, PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence) Act 1984 (PACE) (Slapper & Kelly, p. 433). The CPS is in charge of prosecuting criminal cases, on behalf of the state, which are investigated by the police in Wales and England. 1988, Legal Aid Act makes it possible for defendants facing court appearances and on low incomes, the chance to receive legal assistance for free. In the past, the Access to Justice Act (s12) of 1999 directed the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to have a Criminal Defence Service (CDS) set up. 1999, Access to Justice Act also provided for public defenders appointment (Griffiths & Pritchard, 2010, p. 224). This has the implication that each individual person arrested for a crime, in spite of his or her status, is legally unrestricted to have an independent and a free legal representative present, prior to the commencement of police interviews. The Crown Prosecution Service will focus on criticism while at the same time identifying and evaluating CPS’s functions, as well as, its applicability in defence during criminal trials. In addition, the paper will also focus on identifying and discussing sentencing powers as well as limitations that are accessible by a Judge during a particular criminal case.

Prior to the establishment of the CPS in 1986, the police conducted prosecutions that were presented by the state. Most of the people took into consideration that crime investigation should be treated separately from hearing cases as well as that that conflicts the role played by the police during prosecution. The passing of the PACE Act that was led by the Phillips Commission stated that, in England and Wales, there was no uniform system of prosecution. According to Griffiths & Pritchard (2010) the English Criminal Justice system could be described as an adversarial system; however, the system has shifted slightly to towards an inquisitorial system so as to increase efficiency and increasing the role of the judge through for instance judicial case management (Griffiths & Pritchard, 2010, p. 216). Establishment of CPS was mainly focused on conforming specific roles and functions. The mentioned roles and functions included the making of decisions especially on which kind of offences should be charged and case reviews to ensure sufficiency of the evidence to commence a criminal case and the responsibility for the case and other functions. Nevertheless the Crown Prosecution Service, for most of its time, never partakes in its functions and roles efficiently thus one of CPS criticisms is its figure of discontinued cases.

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As mentioned earlier, the CPS has four principal functions consisting of which offences should be charged, ensuring that there is adequate evidence by reviewing the case files before its commencement, the CPS is also accountable for the cases presented by the police. The CPS is also in charge of prosecuting cases that are in the Crown, as well as, Magistrates Courts. Nevertheless, not each and every one the mentioned functions are carried out in a reasonable standard unveiling some of the criticisms of CPS’ functions and roles. Some of the key criticisms were in the number of cases that had been discontinued. For instance, it was evident that the Crown Prosecution Service was accountable for over thirty-eight per cent of cases that were dropped in 2004. This was one of the reasons which formed the basis of delays that consequently resulting to unorthodox increment of tax of over 173 million pounds where 24 million pounds was due to Crown Prosecution Service. An example of a case which highlights CPS failures is the assassination of Dr Joan Francisco, in the year 1993.

Fundamentally, CPS was created in order to present police investigation facts, as well as, aid in determining the genuineness of a trial. Authority to make decisions of whether or not a defendant ought to be prosecuted lies on CPS and the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) who is the head of CPS enjoys separate powers to, or control the bringing of certain prosecutors (Griffiths & Pritchard, 2010, p.249). A situation of socio-economic status, although unwittingly, may be discriminated against by the police agencies. Sanders (1985) aptly states that “class bias is a recurring theme in criminal justice study” (Sanders 1985, p.176). Therefore, the Crown Prosecution Service has an obligation to prove devoid of doubt that a crime was committed prior to a conviction been secured.

The other principal responsibility of the CPS is testing evidence for admissibility, as well as, reliability before trial. Nevertheless, Crown Prosecution Service has been under serious scrutiny and profound criticism by Police agencies. This is evident in the Guildhall Report (1999) for the huge figures of cases being acquitted or dropped by the Crown Courts because of poor case management. The CPS has been re-organized due to such criticisms. Currently, they are now split into forty-two areas with each district having a Crown Court Prosecutor; moreover, CPS staff at the moment is located in police stations to ensure that they provide necessary advice the agencies during trail. Such significant participation have brought in, considerable changes but the move appears challenging especially in the establishment of the CPS in the first place. Nevertheless, CPS plays a crucial function in making sure that justice is served.

The defence’s core intentions

The defence’s core intentions could be a provision of advisory the defendant. This can be seen in their principal prosecution’s course of action, which may be pending; prosecution’s case assessment, arguing in opposition to it were indispensable, and on condition that the available evidence will provide the best outcome. They ought to make sure that there a fair trial for the defendants. The question of “How can you defend an individual that is guilty?” is repeatedly posed to the defence lawyers. It is clear that the CPS role is not judging, but representing the defendant. Judgment, on the other hand, is passed the Jury, Judge or the Magistrates. In the same way, the onus of proof of an offence that has been committed is placed upon the Crown Prosecution Service. Defence lawyers can by no means have the surety that a defendant is guilty or not. There have been so many instances in criminal cases where innocent persons have admitted of being guilty. For instance, the high acquittals rates in trials that involve rape frequently lead to the prosecution having to reduce the charge to a normal offence against the individual, in exchange for a guilty plea; this means that the offenders who be given psychiatric attention, never receive that assistance. Plea bargaining may be against the principle that all offenders ought to be punished for their unlawful actions (Griffiths & Pritchard, 2010, p. 231). However, if the defendant admits of being guilty then the role of the defence role may be to seek a lenient sentence based on that omission.

There are numerous stages in a criminal trial and at every stage; the CPS plausibly carries the most of the burden. For the period of the first pre-trial hearing at the Magistrates Court, the Crown Prosecution Service ought to demonstrate that there may be a prima facie case to answer; stipulated that they fail; then the case might be dismissed by the Magistrate (Griffiths & Pritchard, 2010, p. 231). Nevertheless, this does not mean that the accused might not face supplementary prosecution as the Crown Prosecution Service may get hold of additional evidence from the police agencies. In intricate cases, there may be several pre-trial hearings, mainly in cases that are listed at Crown Court. These hearings are meant for both sides to establish preliminary procedural matters. Claims and allegations have been made; that defence lawyers and teams intentionally cause postponements in these hearings, and reasons given are that it influences the memories of witnesses, or the delays sustain their income. As pointed out by Burton (2001), the main problem faced by any person seeking to review such resolutions is having the ability to obtain the reasons for such resolutions from the prosecution. There may be obvious reasons why such reasons ought not to be disclosed and these occur from similar arguments as to the rationale behind prosecutorial discretion, in general, ought to be reviewed only in circumstances which are exceptional (Burton 2001, p.378). Furthermore, trials may necessitate adjournment due to the Crown Prosecution Service waiting for evidence in forensic results or supplementary reports.

Under 1996, (CPI) Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act, during the pre-trial hearings, both sides are obligated to disclose beforehand undisclosed points well-known to each other. Nonetheless, this Act states clearly that the Crown Prosecution Service ought not to disclose information that they feel can weaken their case; as a result, this exclusive control raises anxieties for lots of defence lawyers. Nevertheless, the Crown Prosecution Service may also be required to update the defence beforehand of the criminal record or bad character, of any witness that they intend to call. When a trial commences, the criminal record delivers a starting speech and carry out an examination in chief. This may be done to elicit evidence complementary to their case. Nevertheless, they ought not to ask or prompt leading questions, nor refer or question any witnesses to prior statements they had made, in spite of arising contradictions. This may prove challenging as the court’s atmosphere may overwhelm the witness. Therefore, the witnesses may forget to point out some information (Huxley & Martin, 2008). All the same, the Crown Prosecution Service ought to be mindful that their solitary purpose may be to submit the facts of the criminal case and to aid in determining the truth.

The prosecution witnesses are then cross-examined by defence to test their evidence on that case, trying to discredit it or display that they are untrustworthy. However, it must be recognized that while they are under a responsibility to put ahead of the defendant’s situation, they must not allow their individual viewpoint or any emotions of lawful discontentment to prevent them from this course (Martin, 2002). Hence, they must prevent spending time through repeating of questions, bullying, concerns or needless attacks. Protection attorneys have continuously come under judgment for violence tactics. Even so, it is their responsibility to cross-examine powerfully if they are to make sure the person charged gets a reasonable trial. The Crown Prosecution Service may then re-examine their witnesses, they do this to relieve the consequences of the cross-examination, but it must only deal with the factors that it brought up and not used to generate new evidence. They then produce supporting evidence that can provide a deference submission. If these invites are refused then the procedure repeats, with the defense presenting their situation. Both parties must follow the aforementioned decorum. The defense and the CPS then gracefully provide ending presentations and the jury retires to consider their judgment.

If a Jury provides a judgment of guilt for the murder, then a life imprisonment is compulsory, although this does not actually mean life. The 2003 Criminal Justice Act places recommendations for life sentences; these differ significantly based on the characteristics of the criminal activity. The 2003 Act indicates that a Magistrate or a Judge may impose a 30 years minimum sentence for a particularly heinous single killing while most other unique murders ought to be subject to a 12 years minimum sentence. However, the Criminal Justice Act also gives the Judge the power to alter the sentence up-wards or down-wards of the recommendations. Therefore, a judge has to consider numerous factors prior to passing a sentence. They take the defendant’s record, age, personality into consideration, and place significance on Social Enquiry Report that provides in-depth details of the defendant’s conditions and background (Tausz, & Hoyano 2012, p.40).

This report is regarded important in the sentencing process; it indicates any aspects that may have caused the committing of the criminal activity, and indicates the defendant’s likely reactions to various sentences that may be dealt (Daw, & Solomon, 2010, p.745). The defense is permitted to comment on the sentencing procedure through a request in mitigation. They may claim about the conditions in which the criminal activity took place, the defendant’s conduct after the offence and aspects in their individual lives that might indicate their capability to reform. However, the Judge’s responsibility is to encourage retribution for the criminal activity committed; they also have a responsibility to secure people and implement prohibition bearing in mind that the defendant ought to be given to be given an opportunity to reform (Martin, 2008) Even so, a recommendation does not mean that the charged individual will be released once he or she has been served the minimum term; it essentially implies that it is earliest time that they may be regarded for parole.


It is obvious that the pressure of evidence falls upon the CPS which has been the subject of criticism. This must be difficult at times, especially when considering that the defense has a responsibility to powerfully process any evidence presented; if a defense is competent in this place then it could result in inadequate proof being thrown in the jury’s thoughts. Thus, a criminal may be found innocent (Griffiths & Pritchard, 2010, p.249). Nevertheless, the reality remains that the CPS must try to make sure that their situation is leak-proof as injustices are not unprecedented. There is no space for mistake. The Butler Report (1999) made a number of recommendations concerning the practices of the CPS, all of which were acknowledged by the CPS and resulted in the issuing of a new code of conduct in the year 2000.[1]

Most judges also bring significant problems, as they ought to make sure that retribution is dealt with. It is a typical false impression that many suggest life sentences ought to be dealt with; thus, many judges are belittled for being too lenient, but this is incorrect. Passing a judgment can be no simple process. Padfield (2010) questions whether “out-of-court” disposal may result in similar penalty had the case been heard by a judge in court: “repeatedly the fixed penalty is elevated than the defendant would be given the equivalent case in court. Any irritating conditions may have caused to the criminal activity being committed, and the variation is wide and no two situations are the same. It is obvious that the criminal procedure is verbose and at times aggressive, but verbal exchanges between both parties and the judge’s greatest choice are important for justice to succeed.


Burton, M. 2001. Reviewing Crown Prosecution Service decisions not to prosecute.

Crim LR 374. p.378

Daw, R. & Solomon, A. 2010. Assisted suicide and identifying the public interest in the decision

to prosecute. Crim. L.R, 10, pp.737-751.

Griffiths, A. & Pritchard, J. 2010. Law for Non-Lawyers, 3rd edition. Bangor University.

Huxley, B. & Martin, J. 2008. Unlocking the English Legal System, London, England. Hodder

and Stroughton Educational

Sanders, A. 1985. Class Bias in Prosecutions. The Howard J. Crim. Justice

24(3), pp.176-199.

Slapper, G. & Kelly, D. 2003. The English Legal System. Ch. 10. Criminal Justice Process: The

Prosecution. (6th Ed.). Cavendish Publishing.

Tausz, D & Hoyano, L. 2012. Decision to prosecute: whether decision of defendant to prosecute

a child for alleged sexual abuse by her of her two younger sisters amenable to judicial review. Crim. L.R, 1, pp.39-46.

Martin, J. 2002. The English Legal System, London, England. Hodder and Stroughton

Martin, J. 2008. The Facts at Your Fingertips: Criminal Law. London, England. Hodder and

Stroughton Educational.


[1] The Decision to Prosecute in the UK is governed by the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This can be accessed through



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