§ The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith)
I wish to announce the start of a review of the code for Crown prosecutors following the recent developments in prosecutors' powers. Section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 requires the Director of Public Prosecutions to issue a code for Crown prosecutors in order to give guidance on the general principles to be applied in prosecutorial decision making. It enables casework decisions to be made fairly, consistently and independently.
The code is an important public document, which allows everyone to see and understand the basis upon which prosecution decisions are made. The code is kept under continual review to ensure that its principles remain appropriate. The current edition of the code was published in October 2000, which involved an extensive internal, external and public consultation exercise.
Following the public consultation process last time, every aspect of the code was reconsidered and the basic principles were acknowledged as being sound. Accordingly, this review will not extend to any reconsideration of the basic two-test principle of prosecuting on the basis of ensuring that the evidence provides a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to prosecute the case.
This review will therefore be limited in scope to the implications of a number of key recent developments, which have the potential to impact on decisions made within the framework of the code. The most significant of these is the charging initiative under which prosecutors will assume responsibility from the police for determining appropriate charges to bring against alleged offenders, introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. There are also other significant changes to be considered, such as conditional cautioning.26WS
The Crown Prosecution Service, with appropriate consultation, is therefore to review the code for Crown prosecutors to take account of these recent developments. The review team has now been established and will be writing to organisations and individuals with an interest in the code, asking for comments on the particular areas under consideration.
I welcome this review and will be taking a close interest in its progress.