The Crown Prosecution Service: Gatekeeper of the Criminal Justice System - Justice Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office


  1.  This submission is to assist the Committee's consideration of how the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) contributes to and fits into the Criminal Justice System, how it relates to and shares information and how it works with the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO).


  2.  RCPO is pleased to report that the relationship between the CPS, the public prosecuting agency and this, the specialist government prosecuting agency, is good. Both organisations are fully engaged in a variety of government initiatives, working and policy groups. An excellent example of this co-operation which has translated into an operational system is the Hermes Project. This created and thereafter introduced a new Human Resources (HR) database (Trent) and an integrated payroll system. The acquisition and implementation of the project was achieved within a joint project framework, the contributors were all members of the agencies that fall under the aegis of the Attorney General's Office. This was governed by a joint project board and combined project team with individual Departments taking the lead on specific elements.

  3.  Both organisations are continuing to work together on ongoing projects and within various working groups. One new project is the setting up of the "Prosecutors Action Zone" which will appear on the Legal Information Online Network (LION) site (a fuller description of the site follows later in the paper). The aim is to ensure the effective sharing of the best resources from each department in a logical framework. CPS and RCPO are leading respectively on the Disclosure and International Law areas of the site.

  4.  Additionally, RCPO is aware of many instances of individual lawyers from each organisation making direct approaches to colleagues in the other, for assistance or to seek a referral to individuals who, for example, hold an expertise with regard to a particular area of law or procedure. Both RCPO and CPS have particular areas of expertise and both organisations are generous to colleagues in other prosecuting agencies, willingly sharing this knowledge and expertise.


  5.  The RCPO was established as an independent prosecuting authority in April 2005.

  6.  RCPO is a specialist prosecutor whose cases encompass income tax and value added tax (VAT) fraud, excise and duty fraud on oils, tobacco and alcohol, money laundering, strategic exports and drug smuggling. The cases that RCPO prosecute are investigated by either Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) or the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

  7.  RCPO also deals with the restraint and confiscation of criminal assets, so that criminals do not benefit from the proceeds of crime and resources are removed from the criminal economy.

  8.  Prosecutions form the core of our operations. Prosecutions help to protect tax revenues, protect local communities from the harm done by drugs, sustain a strong economy and ensure that the UK is considered a good place to do business.


  9.  Officials from the Law Officers Departments (LODs) are working together with officials from the Attorney General's Office to produce a draft of a protocol that will govern the Attorney's superintendence of the prosecution agencies. The recommendation for the protocol was made as a result of the review carried out into the role of the Attorney General's role to which the Directors of RCPO, CPS and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) made a joint submission.

  10.  Both RCPO and CPS have been prominent in their support of the Attorney General's review of fraud. Both have provided personnel to the review and work together to good effect on various working groups charged with implementing the review.


  11.  The Hermes Project is the introduction of a new HR database (Trent) and integrated payroll through shared working across CPS, Treasury Solicitors (T.Sols) and the SFO.

  The LODs have worked together to share their expertise for the greater benefit of all involved. The project has delivered to timetable the elements of core Human Resources pay, absence and training, all underpinned by improved management reporting. The LODs have agreed at least 80% commonality of processes across departments in these areas. The LODs are now working on delivering the elements of Performance Management and employee and manager self service with the possibility of a Recruitment module.

  The procurement has been achieved through a joint procurement exercise with the four LODs. The acquisition and implementation of the project has been achieved within a joint project framework governed by a joint project board and combined project team with individual Departments taking the lead on specific elements.

Confiscation and Restraint Joint Working

  12.  RCPO and CPS work well together on proceeds of crime issues. CPS has offered RCPO places on their training courses.

  13.  CPS chair a bi-monthly Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) user group, at which RCPO together with SFO, Crown Office and the Department of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland (DPPNI) review recent cases and discuss issues of common concern.

  14.  RCPO and CPS are working together on a review of the panel of receivers and will continue to do so.

  15.  RCPO and CPS regularly discuss matters of common concern. For instance, RCPO invited CPS to a conference in order to review the basis of benefit calculations in drugs cases.

  16.  RCPO and CPS share case-specific information where cases overlap. This relates to both the prosecution of criminal cases and the management of cases which have a restraint and or confiscation element.


  17.  Where both agencies may have an interest in prosecuting a matter the Prosecutors' Convention is invoked in order to decide which agency is best placed to either prosecute the matter or to lead in the prosecution of the matter. Each agency will also advise the other in cases where the specialist knowledge of one may assist the other. This is particularly so where cases involve offences of complex direct and indirect tax fraud/ money laundering. RCPO and the Criminal Taxes Unit of HMRC have provided advice and guidance to the CPS in relation to this work. The CPS guidance to lawyers regarding prosecuting firearms offences has proved invaluable to RCPO.


  18.  If the CPS seek to prosecute for customs offences eg drug smuggling or VAT Fraud—then consent is often sought from the Director of RCPO who considers all such matters personally. Good and effective working relationships have been established between the two organisations. There is regular contact between them to ensure that all such cases progress smoothly and effectively to the benefit of all CJS stakeholders.


  19.  RCPO and CPS both prosecute cases that are investigated by SOCA. Cases are shared between them as per the joint guidance issued by the Director of RCPO and the Director of Public Prosecutions.


  20.  Both agencies are fully involved in the setting up of the "Prosecutors Action Zone" which will appear on the Legal Information Online Network (LION) site. The site is an online network which provides shared information for lawyers across Government to access. Several government departments contribute to the site which has a team of dozens of authors and editors. The site is multifunctional, providing information in relation to policy and practice; there is a database of government lawyers and there is also access to an online database of contacts for government lawyers and legal trainees.

  21.  The aim of the zone is to combine and amalgamate the most useful information from each prosecuting department in various areas of law. This should ensure the effective sharing of the best resources from each department in a logical framework. This will enable all government lawyers, who are looking for assistance in an area with which they are unfamiliar, to be able to access specialised tried and tested advice and guidance upon which they can rely. CPS and RCPO are leading respectively on the Disclosure and International Law areas of the site.

  22.  Last year CPS ran a course for their Higher Court Advocates (HCAs) on which there were some spare places, which they offered to RCPO. This year, CPS has been offered a training day by KPMG, which they in turn offered RCPO places on.

  23.  Both agencies are currently working together in order to devise and deliver training on the law concerning firearms.


  24.  RCPO has welcomed a CPS lawyer on a six month secondment into their International and Policy and Advisory Division (IPAD), enabling the lawyer to pursue personal development and to facilitate greater mutual understanding of the areas of work and issues facing the two organisations.


  25.  RCPO has no recommendations to make to the committee but confirm the view that there are good relations between these two complimentary prosecuting agencies, each working in their own specialist field.

David Green QC


Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office

November 2008

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