The Crown Prosecution Service: gatekeeper of the Criminal Justice System, ninth report of session 2008-09, report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence

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The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is commended for its collaborative working with the police, but this report raises concerns about a series of issues including consistency and the piecemeal way in which its functions are developing, the increasing use of conditional cautions, the lack of an effective complaints system, and the proportion of cases taken by in-house advocates. The Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) need to show clear leadership in defining the role of the prosecutor in the criminal justice system. The Committee welcomes CPS efforts to engage better with victims and witnesses, but government proclamations that the prosecutor is the champion of victims' rights are a misrepresentation. The Committee says people do not have a clear picture of the place of the Crown Prosecution Service within the criminal justice system. Historically it has been seen as the minor partner, the handmaiden, to other organisations such as the police. In reality, the decisions made by prosecutors are pivotal. They are the gatekeepers, determining which cases go forward into the system to be prosecuted at public expense. The role of the prosecutor is central to the criminal justice system, yet the role has only developed incrementally over time, in response to specific challenges, rather than with clear expectations or direction. Fundamental changes have been made to the prosecutor's role and how it relates to other parts of the criminal justice system, but the Committee says it does not appear that this happens as part of an overall vision.

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