Crown Prosecution Service

Outline the reasons for the creation of the Crown Prosecution Service. Describe its functions and assess its effectiveness. The Crown Prosecution Service was established in 1986 following the Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985 to conduct prosecution on behalf of the state. Prior to the creation of the Crown Prosecution Service, prosecution was brought by the police. It was felt that this system was left open to abuse, and led to criticism from several bodies.

A report by Justice in 1970 stated that it was not in the interest of the law to have the police responsible for both the arrest and investigation, and prosecution. It was suggested that police had a conflict of interest and might withhold vital evidence in order to win cases. In 1981 the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure reviewed the system and pointed out the lack of uniformity, different areas had different standards, so where one area would choose to caution another may choose to prosecute.

It was the overall lack on consistency on which the commission decided on total reform and suggested the CPS. The Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985 formed the CPS and it began operation in 1986. The Crown Prosecution Service has responsibility for all aspects of prosecution. They are to advice police on the validity of evidence prior to the charges being made; this is to avoid unnecessary paperwork being forwarded. The CPS review all cases passed to them by the police. Two factors have to be considered by the CPS before they can decide on whether to pursue the case.

Firstly the "evidential test", the CPS decides if there is sufficient evidence to get a realistic chance of conviction. They ask themselves how likely conviction is. Is there more chance of the jury/magistrates voting guilty than not guilty? The second is the "public interest test" this takes into account the seriousness of the offence, the more serious the crime the more need there is for conviction in the interest of the public. The CPS will ask themselves questions including the following: Is the offence common in the area it was committed?

If so does an example need to be made of the defendant? Was the offence motivated by any form of discrimination? Was it premeditated? They will also take into account the attitude of the defendant, has he/she tried to amend his/her actions, was it committed by a genuine mistake and what is the likelihood of a recurrence? Does the defendant seem mentally stable? Could his/her actions be a result of mental illness? After the CPS has carried out these tests they then have to decide weather to prosecute, to send the defendant back to the police for a caution or take no further action.

If the CPS decides to prosecute they can be part of the prosecution in the Magistrates Court and following the Access to Justice Act 1999 they can also act as prosecuting council in the Crown Court providing they have the appropriate advocacy qualifications. When the Crown Prosecution Service first started in 1986 it was highly under funded and therefore the wages offered were too low, this led to huge recruitment problems and as a result the CPS developed a reputation for severe delays and incompetence. Some news papers reported that due to the lack of staff it led to missing files and possibly lost cases.

January 2001 brought about the biggest cash boost for the CPS since it began 14 years previous. It is believed that this should put an end to the criticism as staffing shouldn't be a problem in the future. By October 2001 the CPS, Lord Chancellor's Department, the Bar Council and the Law Society had developed a scheme to allow prosecution barristers and defence barristers to be paid equally. Sir David Calvert-Smith QC hopes this "will attract many more first-class advocates to prosecution work". The major criticism the CPS has been dealing with since its creation is the number of discontinued cases.

About 12% of cases are discontinued each year but the CPS defend this by saying that it is effective filtering. As a result there have been instances where private prosecutions have been brought for serious claims such as anonymous V's Davies 1995, where the CPS declined to prosecute Christopher Davies for the alleged rape of two prostitutes, but after a private court case he was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. The Glidewell report 1998 found that the number of judge ordered acquittals made up over 20% of all acquittals.

1 in 5 of these cases was thrown out due to errors within the preparation of the case. The Narey Report highlighted problems regarding delays within the judicial system. The report suggested that CPS staff should work inside the police department in order to prevent delays in passing cases on. A decision to create Criminal Justice Units was made and a pilot scheme began operation throughout 1998 and 1999 in 6 areas, which proved to be a great success. Not only did this reduce delays but also improved the working relationships between the CPS and the police.

By March 2001, 17 co-located Criminal Justice Units have been place in Police stations across the country and a further 56 are planned by March 2002. During the report by the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure in 1981 the Philips commission made it perfectly clear that the new prosecution service was to be a "locally based service with some national featured". Philips knew the disadvantages a centralised system would bring such as the bureaucracy involved, Philips stated that a "centrally directed national prosecution service for England and Wales (was) neither desirable nor necessary"

The Gildewell report 1998 criticised the organisation of the CPS, stating that it was too bureaucratic and over centralised. The CPS "has the potential to become a lively, successful and esteemed part of the criminal justice system, but... sadly none of these adjectives applies to the service as a whole at present". This lead to the restructure of the CPS from 13 areas to 42 these will be aligned with police force boundaries, with each having a new Chief Crown Prosecutor. The Director of Public Prosecution, Sir David Calvert-Smith QC stated that they would have the power to work on there own initiative.

It is also hoped that the new structure will build better working relationships between local agencies involved in the judicial system. The CPS claim to be meeting targets set by the government and since the re-structure in 1999 "areas have worked to raise public profile of the service within their local communities". Since the implementations of the changes discussed in the Narey Report the pilot areas are showing a 7% discontinuance rate while the national average is 12%, once criminal justice units are placed nation wide the figure for discontinuing cases should drop to the 5-7% mark.

In 2001 98. 3% of hearings in the Magistrates Court resulted in a conviction, 87. 9% of hearing in the Crown Court resulted in the same. The figures published in 2001 by the DPP, Sir David Calvert-Smith QC still leave room for improvement but with constant targets and continuing funds the CPS may within time be able to meet it own vision: "To be a prosecuting authority of stature, providing the best possible service to society. We want to be a professional organisation which values all its people, performs to a high standard, inspires pride, and works in partnership. "