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CPS rolls out 24/7 dial-a-charge phone line

11 November 2009

The Crown Prosecution Service will be rolling out its telephone charging advice service for police across England and Wales next year.

The existing CPS Direct service, which provides immediate advice to police when charging suspects out of hours, will be expanded across the country from January and will operate 24 hours a day.

Police officers will be able to deal immediately with less serious charging decisions on the basis of phone advice by the CPS.

Charging in all serious or complex cases will continue to be decided after face-to-face consultations between police and prosecutors.

Under the pilot, charging decisions for less serious cases which can only be heard in the magistrates’ courts will be taken by police, but the CPS will retain responsibility for charging decisions for more serious offences.

The pilot will run for six months, after which a review will consider whether a full roll-out is appropriate.

CPS chief executive Peter Lewis said the initiative was part of an ongoing plan to improve the way charging decisions are made.

“Under our latest plan, we will be supplying a national 24/7 advice service for the police about charging decisions by rolling out the CPS Direct scheme to all 42 CPS areas,” he said. “The scheme will speed up the process of charging suspects and bringing them to court.”

He continued: “There is clear value in CPS lawyers authorising charging in the more serious cases, but we want to test whether some lower-level offences may be more effectively dealt with by the police.

“This is about the CPS and the police working closely together as an effective prosecution team to deliver the most efficient and effective criminal justice system that we can. The pilots will be strictly and rigorously tested.”

Tim Godwin, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service and head of ACPO Criminal Justice Business Area, said ready access and referral to CPS prosecutors at any time for volume crime cases enables a charge decision to be obtained earlier than at present.

Godwin said this would save police time and reduce the need to release suspects on pre-charge bail to return to the police station while waiting for the charge decision.

Combined with trials by video link, as currently piloted in London, it would also bring offenders to justice more quickly, he said.

He confirmed the police would take responsibility for charging to court some of the low-level crimes without the need for referral to the CPS.

The move follows last year’s 'Review of Policing' report by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, and Jan Berry’s interim report on 'Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing' published in February this year.

The pilot areas will be announced at a later stage.

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