The Code for Crown Prosecutors (“Code”) sets out the general principles crown prosecutors should follow when deciding whether to prosecute a case. The Code, issued by the Director for Public Prosecutions (“DPP”), is updated from time to time to ensure that it remains an effective tool for crown prosecutors when making their decisions. Today marks the publication of the 8th Edition.
The key revisions that have been made to the Code are briefly summarised below.
The Full Code Test
The Full Code Test (“FCT”) is the test that must be satisfied in order for a prosecutor to make the decision to charge a suspect and bring a prosecution.
Stage one of the test requires prosecutors to assess the evidence in each case and decide whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. Stage two of the test, which kicks in only once stage one has been satisfied, requires consideration of whether a prosecution is in the public interest.
The new edition of the Code introduces disclosure as part of the evidential stage of the FCT for the first time, primarily as a response to the ‘explosion of digital evidence’ that has occurred in recent years.
The new edition of the Code requires prosecutors to consider the potential impact of any material that may be available when assessing whether there is sufficient evidence to charge.
The Threshold Test
The Threshold Test (“TT”) is applied where a suspect presents a substantial bail risk and not all the evidence is available at the time when he or she must be released form custody until charged.
It can be used where there is insufficient evidence to meet the evidential stage of the FCT, but there is a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed and further evidence can be gathered to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
The test has been revised in the new edition of the Code in order to clarify and simplify its criteria and ensure that it is only applied where completely necessary, and to avoid cases being charged prematurely.
Focus on Recovering the Proceeds of Crime
The new edition of the Code has a renewed focus on the proceeds of crime and the degree to which suspects have benefited from their criminality. Prosecutors are instructed to consider the proceeds of crime at various stages of a case, including i) when considering the public interest in charging a suspect; ii) when selecting charges; iii) when making submissions on court venue; and iv) when considering a defendant’s offer of a plea.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (“CPS”), this change is aimed at “assisting the court in recovering any assets such as homes, luxury cars, designer clothes, jewellery or money.”
A number of smaller changes have also been made to the Code, which are helpfully summarised here.
The full Code can also be accessed here on the CPS website.