Crown prosecutors present the case against people who are accused of a crime. They decide whether to prosecute, and then speak in court. They aim to present facts to prove that the person broke the law.
Crown prosecutors are qualified solicitors and barristers who work for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), a government department. The CPS prosecutes around 5,500 cases every day.
The role involves reviewing cases put together by the police. For each case, the prosecutor must:
When a case goes ahead, the prosecutor presents the facts against the defendant in court. He or she puts the case for the prosecution. An opposing lawyer then puts the case on behalf of the defendant.
If the accused person denies the offence, witnesses are called to give evidence. The prosecutor may ask questions of each witness and the defendant, sometimes in great detail. At the end, the prosecutor sums up his or her case.
Most criminal cases are handled in magistrates' courts. Crown prosecutors also work in the Crown Court, which hears more serious cases. In addition the CPS deals with appeals that arise from these cases in higher courts: the Divisional Court, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.
Crown prosecutors must make their decisions without any prejudice. It is their duty to ensure that the right person is prosecuted for the right offence, and that all the relevant facts are given to the court.
Prosecutors work closely with a team of caseworkers and administrative staff, who help to ensure that all the facts and documents are to hand in each case. Prosecutors also deal with police, probation service and court staff. Depending on the court, prosecutors present their cases either to a panel of magistrates or judges, or to a judge and jury.
Crown prosecutors work a 37-hour week, Monday to Friday. They work on a rota system to cover weekends and public holidays. There are opportunities for flexible hours, part-time working and job sharing.
Crown prosecutors work from one of around 100 branch offices across England and Wales. They spend much of their time in courts in their area. Some prosecutors also work in the CPS headquarters. A small number work from home, providing telephone advice to the police at nights and weekends.
In Crown Court criminal cases barristers wear traditional gowns and wigs. Solicitors also wear gowns and have the option of wearing a wig.
Salaries for CPS crown prosecutors start from £27,393 (in London, £29,296 plus a £3,000 allowance). Senior crown prosecutors earn £42,224 (in London, £43,807 plus a £3,000 allowance).
The CPS employs around 3,000 lawyers, as well as a further 6,000 caseworkers and administrative staff.
They are grouped in 43 areas that correspond with the boundaries of the police forces in England and Wales. Further staff are based at the CPS headquarters in London and York.
Vacancies are listed on the CPS website and in specialist publications such as The Lawyer.
There are three entry routes:
Qualified solicitors or barristers can apply directly for a crown prosecutor post in CPS. To do so, they must have completed their Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Vocational Course (BVC), as well as a two-year training contract or 12-month pupilage in the legal profession. Experience of criminal law is an advantage. For full details of qualifying as a solicitor or barrister see the articles, Solicitor and Barrister.
The CPS runs a legal trainee scheme. Application is open to candidates who will have completed their LPC or BVC by the time their trainee ship starts. Recruitment is held in October for start in the following October. Entry is highly competitive, with up to 2,000 applications for 25 places. Those who successfully complete their CPS training are appointed as crown prosecutors on admission.
It is possible to join the CPS as a caseworker or administrator, apply for support to complete the LPC or BVC, and then apply to the legal trainee scheme. Applicants need to have successfully completed a probationary period to be funded for their studies.
CPS legal trainees have a full induction. They receive training through the CPS's e-learning platform, the Prosecution College. Meanwhile they work under the supervision of an experienced crown prosecutor.
Legal trainees get experience of all aspects of casework, including:
- Advice to the police
- Attending court hearings
- Case preparation
- Case management
In the later stages of their training, they may be able to prosecute straightforward cases in the magistrates' courts.
CPS staff at any grade can apply for funding for their legal training. They study in their own time for qualifications. Those who complete the LPC or BVC can then apply for training contracts or pupilages, and go on to become solicitors or barristers and finally crown prosecutors.
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A crown prosecutor needs:
The CPS has a clear career structure. With experience and further training, crown prosecutors progress to senior crown prosecutor level. This generally takes six months to two years.
Further progression is to crown advocate, senior crown advocate and principal crown advocate, handling highly complex or sensitive cases.
Crown prosecutors may choose to move to work in private practice or industry.
All About Careers Ltd,
25 Corsham Street, London, N1 6DR,
Tel: 020 3651 4919
The Crown Prosecution Service,
First Floor, 25 Corsham Street, London, N1 6DR
Tel: 020 7796 8000
Skills for Justice, Centre Court,
Atlas Way, Sheffield S4 7QQ
Tel: 0114 261 1499
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.