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Crown Prosecution Service

Volume 100: debated on Wednesday 25 June 1986

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asked the Attorney-General, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood on 26 March, Official Report, column 469, what progress is being made towards establishment of the Crown prosecution service in England and Wales; when he now expects the Director of Public Prosecutions to promulgate to Crown prosecutors the code provided for by section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985; if he has any plans to seek to alter the constitutional relationship between himself and the Director of Public Prosecutions; and what will be the relative status of the code and the existing guidelines for prosecution promulgated by the Attorney-General in March 1983.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department made a commencement order last week which will have the effect of bringing the Crown prosecution service into operation in those parts of England and Wales where it is not already established on 1 October 1986. The Director of Public Prosecutions is today issuing to members of the Crown prosecution service the code for Crown prosecutors required by section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. The code reaffirms and expands my earlier guidance so as to provide a public statement of the fundamental principles according to which the Crown prosecution service will discharge the duties placed upon it by Parliament as well as its policies on the specific matters mentioned in section 10.By providing clear and open criteria as the basis for decisions by crown prosecutors, the code complements the director's accountability to me. I am, of course, in turn accountable to Parliament. However, the constitutional position of the director in relation to Her Majesty's Government will be unaffected. Prosecution policy is not a matter for Her Majesty's Government; such prosecution policies as the Director of Public Prosecutions may adopt are a matter for his independent judgment, subject only to superintendence by me in my capacity as a Law Officer and not as a member of Her Majesty's Government.

I welcome this opportunity to reaffirm the principles enunciated in this House on 29 January 1951. at column 681, by the then Attorney-General (now the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross) which remain as valid today as they were at the time of that classical exposition of the relationship between the Law Officers, the Director of Public Prosecutions and Her Majesty's Government.

In applying those policies to individual cases and deciding whether the interests of public justice will be served by a prosecution, it will be the duty of the director and the staff of the Crown prosecution service to acquaint themselves with all the relevant facts, and for this purpose the scope of the considerations which may be taken into account may be very wide. But there is one consideration which is altogether excluded and that is the repercussion of a given decision upon the personal fortune of either the Attorney-General for the time being or his party's or the Government's political fortunes; that is a consideration which never enters into account. Apart from that, those responsible for taking decisions whether to prosecute (whether it be myself, the director or a Crown prosecutor) may have regard to a variety of considerations, all of them leading to the final question—would a prosecution be in the public interest, including in that phrase, of course, in the interests of justice?

The code now supersedes the existing guidelines and accordingly I propose to invite all other prosecuting authorities and those, such as the police, who are responsible for initiating criminal proceedings to adopt it to the extent that it is applicable to their respective functions. All those whom my officials have been able to consult have indicated that they are willing to do so.

I have caused a copy of the code to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses pending incorporation in the manner prescribed by section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 in the director's annual report for 1986–87.