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What is the CPS decision time limit in 2024?

Indecent Images Charges - Stuart Miller Solicitors

If you or someone you care about has been arrested and is now facing criminal charges, you may be wondering, how long does the Crown Prosecution Service have to make a decision, and what is the CPS decision time limit in 2024? In this article, we will outline everything you need to know about the CPS charging time limit. If you are currently facing charges, it is important that you understand these limits and how they might impact your case going forward. The CPS has a duty to prosecute criminal cases within a certain time frame, and if they do not meet this deadline, there may be consequences that impact how your case is handled.

Does the CPS always prosecute?

No, the CPS does not always decide to charge a suspect, but they do so more often than not. The most recent statistics from the first quarter of 2024 indicate that approximately 4 out of every 5 suspects referred to the CPS are charged. This makes sense because the CPS makes a decision on charging only after the police have put together a file of evidence sufficient to realistically secure a conviction.

The CPS will make a decision based on several factors, including whether or not they believe there is enough evidence to convict the defendant, and whether or not prosecuting the case is in the public interest. If the CPS decides not to prosecute, the case will be dropped, and the defendant will be free to go.

What is the CPS decision time limit?

The CPS has a maximum of 24 hours to make a decision on whether or not to charge someone with a crime. However, this does not mean that they will always make a decision within this time frame. In some cases, the CPS may need more time to gather evidence or speak to witnesses. If this is the case, they may ask for an extension from the court.

If you are facing charges, it is important to understand the CPS decision time limit and how it might impact your case. If the CPS does not make a decision within the 24-hour time frame, they may ask for an extension from the court. If they are granted an extension, they will have up to 48 hours to make a decision. If they do not make a decision within this time frame, the case will be dropped and the defendant will be free to go.

What percentage of cases does the CPS charge?

According to statistics from the CPS itself, in the first quarter of 2024, the proportion of suspects charged (out of all legal decisions) was 78.8%, meaning just under 4 out of every 5 suspects were charged. This was 2.3 percentage points higher than Q4 of 2021, suggesting that the CPS has been charging more often in recent months.

How does the CPS decide to charge?

The CPS will receive a file from the police with evidence relevant to the case before deciding whether or not to charge. A prosecutor will review the file and make their final decision based on what type of evidence is included in said file – which varies depending on the nature of each individual case. The file will usually contain items such as:

  • the police’s audio recordings and the victim’s statements
  • other witnesses’ interviews
  • CCTV footage of the crime taking place
  • medical evidence such as DNA or toxicology reports
  • digital forensic evidence

The CPS must consider the given evidence to be both reliable and credible in order for a conviction to have a realistic chance. If the CPS does not believe there is a realistic prospect of conviction, they will not proceed with the case to avoid wasting public funds and court time.

What does the CPS do before a case goes to court?

Before a case goes to court, the CPS will work with the police to investigate the offence and gather evidence. Once the police have gathered enough evidence, they will send a file to the CPS who will then decide whether or not to charge the suspect.

If the CPS decides to charge, they will send a notice of prosecution to the defendant. The notice of prosecution will contain details of the offence, the date of the offence, and the name and address of the court where the case will be heard.

If you have been charged with an offence, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. A solicitor can help you understand the charge against you and advise you on how to plead. They can also represent you in court if required.

How does the CPS work with the police?

The CPS has a somewhat complex role in the criminal justice process, but in general, the CPS does four things:

  1. it decides which cases should be prosecuted and which should be dropped;
  2. it determines the appropriate charges in more serious or complex cases, and advises the police during the early stages of investigations;
  3. it prepares cases and presents them at court; and
  4. it provides information, assistance, and support to victims and prosecution witnesses.

Can the police charge without CPS?

In less serious cases, the police can make a decision to charge without the CPS. Less serious cases are defined as:

  • summary only offences, (i.e. ones that are usually heard only in the Magistrates’ Court and have a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment)
  • criminal damage where the value of the loss is less than £5,000
  • shoplifting offences
  • either way offences (i.e. ones that could be tried in the Magistrates’ or the Crown court) where the police expect a guilty plea from the suspect

Note, however, that some offences must always be referred to the CPS for charging. These include:

  • any offence involving a death
  • terrorism offences
  • hate crime and domestic violence cases
  • GBH or ABH offences
  • child sexual offences
  • Licensing Act 2003 offences

Can the CPS drop charges before court?

The CPS can drop charges at any time before the case goes to court. However, they will only do so if they believe there is not enough evidence to convict the defendant or if it is not in the public interest to proceed with the case. If the CPS does drop charges, they will send a notice of discontinuance to the defendant.

What evidence is needed to be charged?

In order for the CPS to charge someone with an offence, they must believe that there is enough evidence to convict the defendant. This means that the CPS must be satisfied that there is a realistic prospect of conviction.

The CPS will make this decision based on what type of evidence is included in said file – which varies depending on the offence. For example, in cases of burglary, the CPS will look for evidence such as CCTV footage, DNA evidence, or fingerprints.

In order to be convicted of an offence, the prosecution must have enough evidence to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a tough legal test to pass, which means that there is a burden on the CPS to carefully consider the evidence against someone prior to charging. The CPS, as a public body, need to ensure they do not waste limited public resources on prosecutions that have a low chance of succeeding.

If the CPS does not have enough evidence to meet this test, they may still investigate the case further in order to try and gather more evidence. However, if they are still unable to do so, they will drop the charges.

Can you be prosecuted after 6 months?

For summary-only crimes that are to be heard in the Magistrates’ Court, there is a time bar on prosecutions after six months. In other words, if you are not prosecuted within six months of the offence being committed, the case will be dropped. This is part of your legal right to a fair trial.

For more serious cases that can be tried in the Crown Court, however, there are longer time limits. Some offences do not have a statute of limitations at all, meaning that it doesn’t matter how much time passes – you can still be charged with an offence if the police find sufficient evidence against you.

How long can you be held in custody without being charged?

How long you can legally be held in custody depends on what you are being charged with:

  • you can be held for up to 24 hours before the police have to charge you with a crime or release you
  • the police can apply to hold you for up to 36 or 96 hours if you’re suspected of a serious crime like rape or murder
  • if suspected of a terrorism offence, you can be held without charge for up to 14 days

Where to get more help with CPS decision time limits?

If you are still awaiting a decision from the CPS and you are struggling to understand what comes next, consider engaging a reputable criminal defence solicitor to guide you through the process. Having legal advice on hand when you need it not only gives you peace of mind but ensures that your rights are protected throughout any criminal process that may result from the CPS decision. Contact the friendly and non-judgemental team at Stuart Miller Solicitors today for a free consultation.


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