The Code for Crown Prosecutors (the Code) is an important document that guides the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police in deciding whether or not to charge a suspect.
A public consultation on a new code was launched on 19 July 2012 and closed on 10 October 2012. The CPS have published the summary of responses to this public consultation exercise on the draft code which sets out the comments that were received and how they were dealt with. This can be found at: http://www.cps.gov.uk/consultations/rccp2_response.pdf.
Keir Starmer QC stated that this consultation process was an invaluable way of testing the new principles set out in the Code. In drafting the final version a variety of different perspectives were taken into account such as the views of lawyers, victim support agencies and other criminal justice organisations.
Following the three month public consultation on a shorter version of the Code, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer QC has now published a substantial edition of the Code which can be found at: http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/assets/uploads/files/code2013english.pdf.
Keir Starmer QC stated: “The code is a core document for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and an invaluable tool for ensuring that the right principles are applied fairly and consistently when making our decisions in every case. These changes will help everyone understand how prosecutors make decisions, underpinning our commitment to openness at every stage of the prosecution process”.
Changes To The Code
Several changes have been made to the code, including:
- A clearer explanation on the question of whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prosecute
- A clearer explanation on the effect of a prosecution on the victims health, setting out that if there is evidence that s likely to have an adverse impact on the victims health that the prosecution maybe less likely, taking into account the victims views. This may also include the views of the victim’s family
- A clear reference to the CPS website where specific polices and guidance for prosecutors to use in conjunction with the Code may be accessed by the public
These changes appear to place more emphasis on victims under the public interest stage of the test. The greater the vulnerability of the victim the more likely it is that a prosecution will be required. The CPS must take into account whether the offence was motivated by discrimination, age, race, gender or any other characteristic and in deciding whether or not to prosecute the views of the victim and the impact that the offence has had on them must also be considered.
It must be remembered however that the CPS does not act for the victim or their families and so the prosecutors must consider as a whole the overall view of the public interest.