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How to get the CPS to drop charges before your court date

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The prospect of facing a criminal trial is an understandably daunting one. It is important to remember, however, that even where you have been charged with a crime, you will not necessarily need to stand trial – especially if you have the right legal strategy. However, if you are hoping to have the CPS drop charges, you will always need an excellent legal team.

In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for you to accept a lesser charge, avoiding the need for a trial. The CPS could agree to you receiving a caution in some cases. However, for defendants facing a trial, the best outcome is obviously to have the charges against them dropped or dismissed altogether.

At JD Spicer Zeb, we are experts in having the CPS drop charges against our clients. You can instruct us on a Legal Aid or bespoke Private basis to advise you and consult one of our specialist lawyers to make what are known as written representations or submissions to the CPS.

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As you might expect, the CPS are not likely to drop charges unless they have a compelling reason to do so. This raises several important questions, including what reasons the CPS might have to justify dropping charges and what steps you can take to get the CPS to drop charges.

Factors the police and CPS may consider when it comes to dropping charges in the UK include where:

  • There might be an adverse effect on the victim's physical or mental health
  • The suspect/defendant is elderly or experiencing significant ill health
  • The loss or harm is minor and related to a single incident
  • The loss or harm has been put right by the accused
  • There was a long delay between offence/charge or trial
  • A very small or nominal penalty is likely on conviction 
  • A case has been dealt with in another way, for example, by civil court or the parties becoming reconciled
  • There are informer or other public interest immunity issues
  • A caution is a more suitable outcome
  • The alleged offender is of a young age
  • It would be inappropriate to compel the victim to come to court

The framework of the simple caution scheme for adults is contained in the Ministry of Justice - Simple Caution for Adult Offender Guidance (MoJ Guidance)

Here, we provide answers to some common questions, as well as detailing what is likely to happen if you are successful in getting the CPS to drop the charges against you.

Can a Crown Court case be dropped?

Yes, a Crown Court case can potentially be dropped for various reasons, including lack of evidence against you, if the evidence against you was obtained illegally or if it is not considered in the public interest to continue the case against you. All of these factors can be very subjective, so having the right legal defence can really boost your chances of having your case dropped.

Can the CPS drop charges before court?

Yes, the CPS can drop charges before court in the two ways set out below – formal acquittal and discontinuance. One important advantage of having charges dropped before court is that the charges will then not appear on your criminal record, whereas charges dropped after court proceedings have begun may still appear on your record.

How will the CPS drop charges?

The responsibility of either terminating or pressing ahead with proceedings lies entirely with the CPS. If a prosecutor considers that, for any reason, proceedings should not continue, the CPS will always look to terminate the case at the earliest possible opportunity. The CPS look at the evidential test as to how strong the case is and we have to often remind them that the case may be weak. They must also be satisfied that it is in the public interest to prosecute and show good reason.

There are two main ways charges against you may be dropped:

Formal acquittal

The first way the CPS might drop charges against you is if the prosecution elects to ‘offer no evidence’ in court. This will lead to a formal acquittal, which is akin to a not guilty verdict. In the vast majority of cases, it is very difficult to re-instigate a case after no evidence is offered and the charge will be dismissed by the court.


Under Section 23 and 23A of the Prosecutions of Offences Act 1985, prosecutors also have the power to discontinue proceedings without the need to obtain the leave of the court. This is referred to as discontinuance. Discontinuance avoids the need for a court hearing and the subsequently unnecessary attendance of the relevant parties.

While discontinuation may be more convenient as you will not have to attend court, it should be noted that it will not lead to acquittal. This means that the prosecution can be restarted at a later date with the same evidence.

Why might the CPS drop charges against you?

There are a number of reasons why the CPS might drop charges against you:

Lack of evidence

The most common reason will be because the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. The evidence in question may also be considered unreliable, or the sources not credible, which will have a detrimental effect on the prosecution’s ability to prove the charges against you.

Evidence against you was illegally obtained

It may also be found that the evidence against you has, in some way, been illegally obtained. This will make it inadmissible in court, severely damaging the prosecution’s case against you. If the inadmissible evidence forms a large part of the case against you, the prosecution will not have sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. As a result, the CPS are likely to drop the charges.

The prosecution is not in the public interest

It may also be the case that the prosecution elects to drop a case because it is not necessarily in the public interest. For example, if the charges levelled against you are relatively minor, the prosecution may consider that it is not in the ‘public interest’ for a prosecution to take place.

When making this decision, the prosecution will consider each of the following questions:

  1. How serious is the offence committed?
  2. How culpable is the suspect?
  3. How much harm was caused to the victim?
  4. What was the suspect’s age and maturity at the time of the offence?
  5. What is the impact on the community?
  6. Is the prosecution proportionate to the offence?
  7. Do sources of information require protecting?

To buy time to prepare for a later trial

The prosecution may also choose to discontinue charges for their own benefit. Although a prosecution can only rely on the same evidence if they restart proceedings. This additional time may allow the prosecution to reorganise their approach and general files, so that they are better prepared for a trial.

How to get the CPS to drop your case

Getting the CPS to drop charges against you will primarily rely on being able to point out holes in the case against you. If the evidence they present is not strong enough, or can be easily dismissed, it is much more likely that they will choose to offer no evidence or discontinue the charges.

This will be one of the first things your criminal defence solicitor will look to review when they take on your case. If the case being put against you is particularly weak, or there are obvious signs that the evidence is unreliable, this will be put forward to the prosecution. It will often be more beneficial for both parties if an agreement is reached and charges are dropped before conviction.

Our solicitors can also write to the police at your request to persuade the CPS not to proceed while there are considering whether to charge you.

We can either ask the CPS not to charge you or offer a caution for less serious cases. If there are good reasons why court proceedings should be avoided. This may relate to:

  • Remorse
  • Reconciliation with victim
  • Poor health
  • The impact on you and your family
  • Low level of offence
  • Public interest

In cases of low-level offences committed by first time offenders, it may be more suitable for the police to ask you to agree to a community resolution which is an out of court disposal and an agreement.

A community resolution provides the police with the opportunity to proportionally handle low level offences committed by first-time offenders without any recourse to formal criminal justice sanctions. Often, community resolution will include apologies, compensation, or a commitment to cleaning up any criminal damage caused.

This is why it is always important to have an expert criminal defence solicitor on your side, no matter what sort of charges you are faced with. They will have the experience and expertise to be able to carefully examine the prosecution’s case and recognise where it will be possible to get charges dropped altogether.

What will happen next if the CPS drop charges?

It should be noted that the decision to terminate a prosecution and drop charges is still susceptible to judicial review. This usually means that a full note of the reason for the decision is required.

The more difficult a decision is regarded to be, the more important it is for a detailed note to be provided showing how the evidential and public interest stages of the Full Code Test have been applied.

Under the Victim’s Right to Review (VRR) scheme, victims of an alleged crime also have the right to seek a review of a decision to terminate proceedings, where this results in an end to proceedings that directly relate to them.

If you are in custody at the time the charges are dropped, then arrangements will be made for your swift release.

As previously mentioned, it is important to remember that, if your case was discontinued, it may still be possible for the prosecution to reinstate it under the same evidence.

Get immediate specialist legal advice about getting charges against you dropped

If you are facing prosecution, our criminal defence solicitors are on hand to lend their expertise and help you get charges dropped by the CPS.

Using our detailed knowledge of criminal law, we have a strong record of helping clients to avoid charges, secure formal acquittals and win not guilty verdicts in court. Not only this, but we can also help to achieve reduced penalties where a conviction cannot be avoided.

Our expert knowledge and vast experience of the criminal justice system means that you can be confident knowing that your case is in the most dedicated and experienced hands. We will provide clear advice in plain English along with sympathetic personal support to help you through this difficult time and give you the best chance of the CPS dropping charges in the UK.

You can contact us 24-hours a day, seven days a week for an immediate free initial consultation, expert legal advice and representation.

Our highly experienced criminal defence lawyers offer:

  • 24/7 legal support in person and over the phone, 365 days a year
  • Representation anywhere in England or Wales
  • Accredited Police Station Representatives to support you during a police interview
  • Clear, effective legal advice in any language (see our languages spoken)
  • Local offices in LondonBirmingham or Manchester

If you need immediate advice and representation , please use our emergency contact numbers:

Birmingham – 07891 777090

Brent – 07836 577556

Camden – 07836 577556

Manchester – 07798 701339

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