Skip to main content

Reconsidering a Prosecution Decision: Revised CPS Guidance

Volume 689: debated on Thursday 25 February 2021

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has today published revised guidance to prosecutors on when they may institute or reinstitute criminal proceedings after a decision not to prosecute or to terminate proceedings has been communicated to a suspect or defendant.

The guidance sets out the framework for when this is possible as a matter of law and the governing principles that apply to the CPS decision. Victims of crime and the public have a legitimate expectation that those who commit offences will be brought to justice. Where it is legally possible to do so, and the evidential and public interest test provided for in the code for Crown Prosecutors is met, there are two important protections for the suspect, to ensure that there is no injustice done: first, the right of a defendant to revive proceedings in the magistrates’ court, under section 23(7) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985; secondly, the court’s power to stay any proceedings which amount to an abuse of the court’s process.

The guidance also provides a non-exhaustive list of eight examples to illustrate the types of situations where cases are discontinued and later reinstated. They include where a further review shows that the original decision was wrong, when further evidence is anticipated in the near future, where significant evidence is later discovered, when a case is reviewed further in light of the findings of an inquest and where there are outstanding lines of inquiry to be completed or relevant material to be obtained. The guidance clarifies the procedure to be adopted and establishes the level of seniority at which any decision must be made. The fundamental evidential and public interest considerations have not changed.

A copy of the revised guidance has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.