‘Significant changes’ as CPS publishes new guidance on charging for police and prosecutors

New legal guidance setting updated rules on charging criminal cases has been published today (December 31) by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Dec 31, 2020
By Paul Jacques
Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions

Max Hill QC said these were “significant changes” to ensure the public receives the service it “rightly expects”.

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

The latest edition, which is being published on the same day as The Attorney General’s Guidelines on Disclosure 2020 and the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act (CPIA) Code of Practice 2020, herald some “significant changes” to disclosure processes.

Mr Hill said: “There has been a major shift in working practices and priorities throughout the criminal justice system in recent years and it is vital there is clear guidance to help police and prosecutors navigate these effectively.

“The Attorney General’s guidelines focus on getting disclosure right and getting it done early so its impact on the evidence is known. These are significant changes and we must continue to work collaboratively to embed them.

“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. But we must continue to push for improvement, and jointly meet the standards set by the Attorney General – and Parliament – so we can provide the service the public rightly expect.”

Consultation on DG6 started 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 group worked constructively, and re-drafted sections of DG6 helping to make its aims and intentions clearer.

DG6 is a step by step guide for police officers and prosecutors, guiding 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 these new changes will be monitored by the Joint Operational Improvement Board. This is a body led by leaders from CPS, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and 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 had its remit expanded this month.

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

As well as reflecting the changes in The Attorney General’s Guidelines on Disclosure 2020 and the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act (CPIA) Code of Practice 2020, the new guidance incorporates changes to the Code for Crown Prosecutors 2018 and the introduction of judicially -led initiatives in both the magistrates’ court (Transforming Summary Justice) and the Crown Court ‎(Better Case Management).

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