Monday, 22 February 2010
New Code for Crown Prosecutors
A new Code for Crown Prosecutors came into force 22nd February 2010. The Code is made by virtue of the Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985 s.10. On this occasion it has been issued in 12 languages.
The two-stage test has been retained:
1] Is there enough evidence (i.e. a realistic prospect of conviction of each suspect on each charge);
2] Is a prosecution in the public interest. If test  is met, a prosecution will usually take place unless the prosecutor is sure that there are public interest factors tending against prosecution which outweigh those tending in favour, or unless the prosecutor is satisfied that the public interest may be properly served, in the first instance, by offering the offender the opportunity to have the matter dealt with by an out-of-court disposal.
Section 7 of the Code deals with Out of Court Disposals. "The prosecution service is responsible for deciding whether to offer an offender a conditional caution in certain cases. In such cases, the Full Code Test must be met. Prosecutors will offer a conditional caution where it is a proportionate response to the seriousness and the consequences of the offending and where the conditions offered meet the aims of rehabilitation, reparation or punishment within the terms of the Criminal Justice Act 2003."
"A conditional caution is not a criminal conviction but it forms part of the offender’s criminal record and may be cited in court in any subsequent proceedings."
If extensive use were to be made of conditional cautioning then a very considerable number of offenders might never see the inside of a Magistrates' Court unless proceedings are brought for breach of the caution.
Another "out of court possibility" is a simple caution and the CPS may suggest that the Police issue a Penalty Notice for Disorder.
In December 2009, a review was announced of the use of out of court disposals. The review will report in March.
Section 11 is also interesting. It deals with the prosecutor's role in assisting a sentencing court and states that the prosecutor may assist the court in determining the appropriate "sentencing range".
This document is required reading for anyone seriously interested in the criminal law.