The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will drop the charges against you if there is a lack of evidence, or if the prosecution is not in the public interest.

Crown Prosecution Service

When you instruct us, we will review your case to check for weaknesses, working to get the charges dropped before conviction. Contact us now to speak to a criminal defence solicitor from our team. We are available 24/7 and offer free police station representation.

Has the CPS charged you with a criminal offence?

If you are reading this, it is likely that the CPS has formally decided to pursue a criminal case against you. Some people think the police make this call, but actually, that is not quite how the system works. The police investigate a crime. If the police think there is a case to be answered, it hands the file to the CPS for review. The CPS will then consider two things:

  • Is there sufficient evidence to secure a guilty verdict?
  • Is a prosecution in the public interest?

If the answer to both of these questions is ‘yes’, then the CPS will decide what charges to lay. Court proceedings will then be set in motion.

Can I get the CPS to drop the charges?

However, the CPS does make mistakes. It is possible that a prosecution is started, when in fact there is not enough evidence, or it is not in the public interest. You can put this forward to the prosecution, and if they agree, then the charges against you will be dropped. This sounds easy, but actually, it requires a very delicate approach.

Remember, you cannot ask the CPS to drop the charges without good cause. You might know you are innocent, or regret your actions, or have been reconciled with the victim. But the CPS will still say that justice must be done. The CPS cannot decide whether you are innocent or guilty – only the courts can do that.

Also, if you submit an unconvincing argument, then it can actually work against you. You might say the wrong thing or frustrate the CPS to such an extent that they become more determined than ever to pursue a prosecution against you. This is much more likely to happen if you represent yourself, or instruct an inexperienced criminal defence lawyer.

Instead, you need to base your submission on the legal test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This is the two-stage test outlined above, whereby the CPS must only pursue a prosecution if:

  • There is enough evidence to provide a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’; and
  • The prosecution is in the public interest

Is there enough evidence to secure a conviction?

Therefore, the first thing to consider is whether there is really enough evidence to secure a conviction (meaning a guilty verdict). More specifically, is there enough lawful, credible and reliable evidence to secure a conviction?

All criminal cases hinge on the evidence produced by the prosecution. This could be a confession, witness statements, CCTV footage, forensic evidence…and so the list goes on. There must be sufficient evidence to persuade the judge or jury that you are guilty.

Furthermore, there must be no question as to the reliability, credibility or lawfulness of the evidence. For instance, imagine that the police find damning evidence in your home, but it was obtained during an unlawful search and seizure. If so, then the evidence cannot be used in court. Or, perhaps a witness has said they saw you commit the crime, but that same witness has now changed their story numerous times. This would raise doubts as to the credibility of the witness, which may then render the statement inadmissible in court. Or, maybe the evidence is unreliable. For example, if the police caught you speeding but the hand-held speed gun had not been calibrated properly, then how can anyone be sure that the reading was accurate? The answer is that they cannot be sure, so once again, the evidence is inadmissible in court.

As criminal defence solicitors, our first task is to review all the evidence against you to check for weaknesses. If we believe that the prosecution lacks evidence, or that the evidence is unlawful, unreliable or uncredible, then we will bring this to the prosecution’s attention.

Is the prosecution in the public interest?

The second thing to consider is whether the prosecution is really in the public interest. It costs a lot of money to bring a criminal case through the courts. If the case is not worthy of a full-scale criminal trial, then it is deemed a waste of taxpayer’s money. It could also damage the public’s perception of the judicial system in England and Wales.

The CPS bases its decision on various public interest factors, such as:

  • The seriousness of the offence
  • The culpability of the accused
  • The accused’s circumstances at the time of the offence, including their age and maturity
  • The impact on the victim
  • The impact on the community (if any)
  • Whether a prosecution is a proportionate response

Take the case of a 12-year-old child who steal a chocolate bar from a shop because they’re living in poverty. Would it be in the public interest to pursue a criminal case against this child? Probably not. Instead, the police could issue a warning or a caution. The offence is not serious, the accused is a minor, and the impact on the victim/society is very little. There is no need to drag the matter through the courts.

When you instruct us to handle your case, we will conduct our own ‘public interest test’. If we believe the case should be dropped on public interest grounds, then we will put this to the CPS.

What happens if the CPS drops the charges against me?

If the CPS drops the charges against you, then one of two things will happen:

  • There will be a formal acquittal; or
  • There will be a discontinuance

There is a major difference between the two. Namely, a discontinuance means that the prosecution can be started again at a later date.

Formal acquittal

A formal acquittal is when the case goes to court but the prosecution ‘offers no evidence’. The court will then issue a formal acquittal, which means the court has found you not guilty. You might feel upset that there has to be a court hearing. However, there is a significant advantage to a formal acquittal, as it will be very difficult for the CPS to resurrect your case. The charge will be dismissed and you can feel confident that the case will not be re-instated.

Discontinuance

Alternatively, the CPS may simply choose to ‘drop’ the charges, which is known technically as ‘discontinuance’. You do not have to go to court, which will no doubt be a relief. But as opposed to a formal acquittal, the CPS can restart the case at a later date – although the same evidence must be used.

Ask an expert

If you want to ask the CPS to drop the charges against you, we strongly recommend instructing an experienced criminal defence solicitor. As emphasised earlier in this article, the wrong approach could be disastrous. Saying the wrong thing could incriminate you further, or persuade the CPS that a prosecution is absolutely necessary. Our solicitors know how to secure the most favourable outcome. When you instruct us, our first task will be to look for flaws in the prosecution’s case. If there is a lack of evidence, or the case is not in the public interest, then we will make a submission on the relevant grounds. Alternatively, we may advise that it is preferable to plead guilty to a lesser charge. If so, we can negotiate directly with the CPS on your behalf.

We Can Speak With The CPS On Your Behalf

Have you been accused of a criminal offence? We can help you.

Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We also offer free police station representation.

Or you can email us on enquiries@ashmanssolicitors.com or complete our Free Online Enquiry Form and we’ll be in touch soon.