The CPS code of conduct sets out the general principles prosecutors should follow when deliberating cases. After considering whether there is enough reliable and credible evidence against the defendant to reach a decision, the prosecution must consider whether it would be in the public interest for the case to be brought forward to the court. Prosecution will almost always take place unless the public interest factors tending against prosecution outweigh those tending in favour. Between 2010-2011 21,707 cases were dropped for public interest reasons such as the suspect or defendant being elderly or in ill health, the suspect being a minor, and the effect the trial may have on the victim’s physical or mental health. The prosecution also considers factors such as evidence which should be withheld in the public’s interst, the impact the offence had on the community, and whether prosecution would be considered to be a proportionate response in relation to the cost to the CPS service and criminal justice system.
There is often controversey surrounding public interst immunity not only due to the time and money wasted when cases are dropped, but also due to information being withheld unfairly.
A case in 1995 involving a former MI6 officer lead to the Secret Intelligence Service being granted public interest immunity after he attempted to bring the agency before an employment tribunal on the grounds that he felt he was unfairly dismissed. Although they were granted immunity on the basis the trial woud damage national security, the claimant argued the reason behind immunity being granted was in fact an attempt to cover up their incompetent and dishonest personnel management.
Further cases that were granted immunity or abondoned for reasons in the public interest are listed below.
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