How we reach decisions

The PPS Code for Prosecutors is a document issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions setting out the general principles Prosecutors should follow when they make decisions on cases.

The Code for Prosecutors can be read in full by clicking the link. 

The Test for Prosecution

The Code for Prosecutors gives guidance on how the PPS makes decisions about whether or not to prosecute.

Prosecutions are initiated or continued by the PPS only where it is satisfied that the Test for Prosecution is met. This is a two-stage test:

  1. The Evidential Test – the evidence which can be presented in court is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.
  2. The Public Interest Test – prosecution is required in the public interest.

The prosecutor must analyse and evaluate all the material submitted in a thorough and critical manner. The Evidential Test must be passed before the Public Interest Test can be considered. Each of these Tests must be separately considered and passed before a decision to prosecute can be taken.

The Evidential Test

Public prosecutors determine whether there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction against each defendant on each charge.

A reasonable prospect of conviction exists if, in relation to an identifiable suspect, there is credible evidence which the prosecution can present to a court upon which an impartial jury (or other tribunal), properly directed in accordance with the law, could reasonably be expected to find proved beyond reasonable doubt that that suspect had committed a criminal offence. This is different to the test which the court will apply, which is deciding whether the offence is proved beyond reasonable doubt.

If the Evidential Test is not met the case cannot proceed, no matter how serious or sensitive it may be.

The Public Interest Test

If a case passes the Evidential Test, the prosecutor must decide if a prosecution is required in the public interest.

Broadly, the presumption is that the public interest requires prosecution where there has been a contravention of the criminal law. This presumption provides the starting point for consideration of each individual case. The prosecutor will weigh relevant public interest factors to determine whether prosecution is in the public interest. Where available, the views of the victim will also be taken into account.