Complex Case Units – What are they and why are they used?
Complex Casework Units – their role for the prosecution.
Most prosecution casework is carried out locally by prosecutors based in regional hubs.
For some cases, the position is entirely different, and a specialised team of prosecutors takes over.
Specialist Casework – Criteria
The Crown Prosecution Service produces national guidance that specifies the criteria for casework that must be referred to Complex Casework Units (CCUs). This guidance was last reviewed in February 2020 and confirms that the casework to be dealt with by CCUs will be “mainly from Level 1 and Level 2 crimes with broadly defined characteristics of complexity that distinguish them from non-complex crime”.
The guidance provides an extensive list of the characteristics generally associated with that crime. It also provides a general discretion for Chief Crown Prosecutors to direct cases that do not meet those characteristics to the CCU.
What offences are commonly dealt with?
The characteristics include;
- large scale human trafficking
- serious drug related offences involving substantial importation, manufacture or supply, particularly with an international dimension;
- major targeted local criminals in organised or international crime and
- high profile, multi-victim and/or multi-defendant murders.
The criteria are not solely based on the nature of the offence being alleged; that would be too simplistic an approach. Instead, they are based on the type of characteristics referred to above.
This inevitably leads, in some instances, to scope for interpretation of the criteria as to the nature of casework to be prosecuted by CCUs, but that does not detract from their clarity. Instead it allows for a flexible approach to cases which are at the margins of complexity.
Why else may a case be referred to a CCU?
Cases may also be referred to the CCU by agreement or at the direction of the Chief Crown Prosecutor and which are likely to feature one or more of the following:
• unusual legal or evidential issues (including the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act)
• complex expert evidence or multiple experts
• extensive confiscation issues
• significant or multiple foreign enquires or liaison with foreign law enforcement agencies
• protected witnesses
• multi-agency involvement
• resident source
• extensive undercover police operations/multiple use of sources
• where the skills of a CCU prosecutor are deemed necessary.
In addition to the CCUs, there are also divisions dealing with fraud, terrorism and ‘special crime’ (such as election offences and prosecutions following disasters).
How can we help?
Our considerable expertise in complex crime means that we, as a firm, are well versed in dealing with complex litigation and have an excellent understanding of how these specialist prosecution departments operate. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please call us now on 0161 477 1121 or email us if you have any questions in relation to this article.