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CPS issues revised legal guidance on charging for police and prosecutors

04 January 2021

REVISED LEGAL guidance setting out updated rules on charging criminal cases has been published by Max Hill QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director’s Guidance on Charging 6th Edition (DG6) has been unveiled by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with the new rules coming into immediate effect.

The document, which was last updated back in 2013, provides a clear set of guidelines for prosecutors and police to ensure cases are referred to the CPS at the right time and with the right material and information such that prosecutors can make immediate charging decisions and cases pass effectively and efficiently through the criminal justice system.

The latest edition, which was published on the same day as the Attorney General’s Guidelines on Disclosure 2020 and the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act Code of Practice 2020, heralds some significant changes to disclosure processes.

Max Hill said: “There has been a major shift in working practices and priorities throughout the criminal justice system in recent years and it’s vital that there is clear guidance to help police and prosecutors navigate them effectively. The Attorney General’s guidelines focus on making sure disclosure is right and that it’s done early so that its impact on the evidence is known. These are significant changes and we must continue to work collaboratively to embed them.”

Hill went on to comment: “Great strides have been made in disclosure management through joint working by prosecutors and the police. We have delivered mass training to build expertise, encouraged early discussion on disclosure issues and introduced close monitoring to track performance. However, we must continue to push for improvement and jointly meet the standards set by the Attorney General – and Parliament – such that we can provide the level of service the public rightly expects.”

Clarity of intention

Consultation on DG6 began at the end of 2019. A joint CPS/police Working Group was set up to identify areas for discussion and, where appropriate, agree amendments. This Working Group operated constructively and re-drafted sections of DG6, in turn helping to make its aims and intentions clearer.

DG6 is a step-by-step guide for police officers and prosecutors, steering them logically through the charging process. It provides extensive detail for prosecutors and police on their specific responsibilities, in addition to the material and information required for a charging decision.

Progress in embedding the latest changes will be monitored by the Joint Operational Improvement Board. This is a body led by leaders from the CPS, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing which has specific responsibility for effective joint working in relation to disclosure, case progression and rape and serious and sexual offences. This new Board replaces the National Disclosure Improvement Board which has now had its remit expanded.

The Board is also working on a joint National Case Progression Commitment which sets out the joint commitment of the CPS, the NPCC and the College of Policing to take action designed to drive improvement in case progression, promoting the benefits of a joined-up approach and identifying Best Practice while always sharing innovative ways of working to improve outcomes.