The latest versions of the Criminal Procedure Rules and of the Criminal Practice Directions made by the Lord Chief Justice.
Applies to England and Wales
What are the Criminal Procedure Rules?
The Criminal Procedure Rules are rules about criminal court procedure in magistrates’ courts, the Crown Court, the Court of Appeal and, in extradition appeal cases, the High Court. Each Part of the Criminal Procedure Rules contains rules about parts of that procedure. On this page there are summaries of what each Part is about and links to the rules in each Part. In those rules there are notes that give more detail, including references to the Acts of Parliament and other legislation that applies.
The Criminal Procedure Rules are published at legislation.gov.uk. There you can read and download the rules in HTML and pdf.
On this page, you can:
read the rules online and download them in MS Word.
read and download the Criminal Practice Directions made by the Lord Chief Justice.
On the Criminal Procedure Rules forms page you can read and download the forms to use with the rules.
Criminal court procedure
When someone is accused of a crime, they may be sent a notice (called a ‘summons’ or a ‘requisition’) that tells them to go to court on the date in the notice, or tells them to fill in a form with the notice and send that form to the court. Sometimes the person is arrested, questioned, formally accused of the crime (‘charged’) and then taken to court, or given a date they must go to court.
In the Criminal Procedure Rules anyone accused of a crime is called a ‘defendant’. The authority responsible for prosecuting the case in court is called the ‘prosecutor’. In most cases that will be the Crown Prosecution Service.
Almost all criminal cases start in a magistrates’ court. At court, some cases will be dealt with completely at the first hearing, for example if the defendant pleads guilty to the crime. Serious cases may be sent for trial in the Crown Court. Some cases may be sent for sentence in the Crown Court even if the defendant is convicted of the crime in a magistrates’ court.
In magistrates’ courts usually there will be between one and three magistrates. They may be helped by a legal adviser.
In the Crown Court there will be one judge. Usually there will be a jury for a trial.
At the first court hearing many cases will be postponed (‘adjourned’) to another date. If the defendant pleads not guilty to the crime the court will need to arrange a trial to receive evidence about what happened. At the first hearing the court will ask for information about the case, set a trial date and make court orders (‘directions’) about getting the case ready for trial.
At the trial, unless the defendant pleads guilty the court will hear evidence from prosecution witnesses and it may receive written evidence. The prosecution witnesses can be questioned by the defendant or by the defendant’s lawyer. After the court has heard, or read, the prosecution evidence the defendant can give evidence and can ask witnesses to give evidence for the defence. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty, not up to the defendant to prove the opposite.
After the court has heard, or read, all the evidence the magistrates, in a magistrates’ court, or the jury, in the Crown Court, decide whether the prosecution has proved that the defendant is guilty. If it has, the magistrates, in a magistrates’ court, or the judge, in the Crown Court, pass sentence on the defendant. A sentence can be an order to spend time in prison, or to pay money (a ‘fine’), or to carry out unpaid work, or to do, or not do, other things.
Criminal Procedure Rules 2020 contents
General matters (including case management)
This Part states the objective for all the other rules. It places duties on the court and on everyone involved in a case.
This Part explains when the Criminal Procedure Rules apply. It explains what some words used in the Rules mean. It lists some judges’ work that court staff may be allowed to carry out.
This Part contains rules about the powers that courts use to make sure trials go ahead on time and are fair. It includes rules about pre-trial court hearings, when defendants are asked whether they are going to plead guilty or not guilty and when courts give directions to make sure that everyone prepares properly.
This Part contains rules about the ways in which courts and the people involved in a case can send information and documents to each other.
This Part contains rules about using forms to give information to the court. It lists the records that court staff must keep. It explains how to apply for information kept in court records.
Criminal cases usually take place in public. Usually anyone can attend and what happens can be reported. Sometimes there are restrictions and this Part lists them. It contains rules about applying for a restriction, or for a restriction to be removed.
This Part contains rules about how the prosecutor must start a case and how the prosecutor must explain what the defendant is accused of doing.
This Part lists the information that a prosecutor must give a defendant at the beginning of a case.
Criminal offences are divided into three types. The most serious have to be sent by the magistrates’ court to the Crown Court for trial and sentence. Those are described as ‘triable only on indictment’. The least serious offences are tried and sentenced in the magistrates’ court. Those are described as ‘summary offences’. With the third type of offence the magistrates’ court has to decide whether to send the case to the Crown Court or to keep it in the magistrates’ court. Those offences are described as ‘triable either way’. In most cases of that third type the defendant can choose to be tried in the Crown Court even if the magistrates’ court is willing to keep the case. The decision about which court will try an offence of that third type is called ‘allocating for trial’. This Part contains rules about how the magistrates’ court must allocate cases and send cases to the Crown Court for trial.
Even if the magistrates’ court keeps a case involving an offence that is ‘triable either way’, sometimes the court can send the case to the Crown Court for sentence if the defendant is found guilty in the magistrates’ court.
The indictment is a Crown Court document in which the prosecutor must explain formally what the defendant is accused of doing. It has to be prepared after the case is sent by the magistrates’ court to the Crown Court for trial. This Part contains rules about how an indictment must be prepared and delivered to the Crown Court.
In some cases, the court can approve an agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant company for a prosecution to start and then be postponed while the defendant pays a penalty and meets other conditions. The agreement is called a ‘deferred prosecution agreement’. This Part contains rules about applications for the court to approve an agreement.
This Part contains rules about what a prosecutor must do to stop a prosecution.
Custody and bail
This Part contains rules about the information that must be included in the types of warrant to which it applies.
Before trial a defendant who has been arrested can be released under a legal duty to attend a police station or the next court hearing. This is called ‘release on bail’ or ‘remand on bail’. There is a limit on how long a defendant can be kept in custody without being released on bail, called the ‘custody time limit’. This Part contains rules about applications for bail, appeals against bail decisions and applications to extend custody time limits.
Sometimes a prosecutor has information that could contradict the prosecution case or support the defendant’s case. The prosecutor is under a legal duty to give that information to the defendant. The defendant is under a legal duty to give the prosecutor and the court the names of any defence witnesses and, in some cases, a description of the defence case. These legal duties are called ‘disclosure’. This Part contains rules about giving disclosure and about applications to do with disclosure.
This Part contains rules about the content of statements by witnesses and about objecting to the use of written witness statements as evidence.
This Part contains rules about applying for court orders for witnesses to come to court or provide documents.
This Part contains rules about applying for directions to help a witness or the defendant to give their evidence and take part in the case, and rules about objecting to directions.
This Part contains rules about how medical, scientific and other expert evidence can be introduced.
Evidence is called ‘hearsay’ if it is about something that the witness has been told by someone else. This Part contains rules about how hearsay evidence can be introduced.
Evidence about the alleged bad behaviour of a witness or the defendant in the past is called ‘bad character’ evidence. This Part contains rules about how bad character evidence can be introduced.
Where a person complains of a sexual offence, evidence about their previous sexual behaviour is not normally allowed. This Part contains rules about applications to allow that sort of evidence.
Where a person complains of a sexual offence, or a child gives evidence of some other types of offence, the defendant must have a lawyer to question them. In some other sorts of case the court can stop a defendant asking a witness questions except through a lawyer. This Part contains rules about applications to stop a defendant asking questions and about what the court must do to appoint a lawyer if the defendant does not have one.
This Part contains the rules about what happens, and in what order, when a magistrates’ court tries a case against a defendant and passes sentence if the defendant pleads guilty or is convicted.
This Part contains the rules about what happens, and in what order, when the Crown Court tries a case against a defendant and passes sentence if the defendant pleads guilty or is convicted.
This Part contains rules about how to apply to be excused from jury service. It lists the information that must be given to jurors attending court and includes other rules about jurors’ duties.
Where a defendant has been acquitted of an offence then normally that defendant cannot be tried again for the same offence. This Part contains rules about applications for retrials in the few cases where that is possible.
Any penalty that the court can impose on a defendant who pleads guilty or who is convicted is called a ‘sentence’. A sentence may include time in prison, a fine, or other penalties. The main rules about passing sentence are in Parts 24 and 25. This Part contains other rules about some types of sentence and about some special procedures to do with sentencing.
This Part contains rules about some special procedures to do with sentences for driving offences.
This Part contains rules about what the court can do to enforce a fine and about applications to the court to do with fines.
At the end of a case the court sometimes can make an order that the defendant must do, or not do, specified things to prevent further offending. Breaking that sort of order is a criminal offence. In the Criminal Procedure Rules that sort of order is called a ‘behaviour order’. This Part lists the types of behaviour order the court can make. It contains rules about what has to be done before the court can make a behaviour order and rules about applications to vary behaviour orders.
Some sentences require a defendant to do unpaid work, or attend a training or other course, or receive medical treatment. This Part contains rules about bringing the case back to court if the defendant does not do as required.
Confiscation and related proceedings
At the end of a case sometimes the court can make a ‘confiscation order’ for the defendant to pay money made from the crime. The prosecutor can apply for a ‘restraint order’ to stop the defendant disposing of property that may be confiscated. This Part contains rules about applications for confiscation and restraint orders and about applications to do with those orders.
A defendant can appeal to the Crown Court against conviction or sentence in a magistrates’ court. In an appeal against conviction the defendant has a fresh trial, with a Crown Court judge and two magistrates. In an appeal against sentence a Crown Court judge and two magistrates reconsider the defendant’s sentence. They can pass a sentence that is more or less severe, or the same. This Part contains rules about how to appeal.
Sometimes a prosecutor or defendant can appeal to the High Court if they think a magistrates’ court or the Crown Court has made a mistake of law. The magistrates’ court or the Crown Court must be asked to agree a summary of what has happened. The summary is called a ‘case stated’. This Part contains rules about applications to the magistrates’ court or Crown Court for a case stated for an appeal to the High Court.
A defendant can appeal to the Court of Appeal against conviction or sentence in the Crown Court. In some cases, a prosecutor or defendant can appeal to the Court of Appeal about other decisions by the Crown Court. This Part and Parts 37 to 42 contain rules about the different types of appeal to the Court of Appeal.
This Part contains rules about appeals by prosecutors or defendants against decisions by the Crown Court at a type of pre-trial court hearing called a ‘preparatory hearing’.
This Part contains rules about appeals by prosecutors against decisions by the Crown Court to stop the prosecution case or to exclude evidence on which the prosecution case relies.
This Part contains rules about appeals by defendants against conviction or sentence in the Crown Court and about some other types of appeal.
This Part contains rules about appeals against Crown Court decisions to do with reporting a case or to do with public access to a trial. (There are rules about reporting restrictions in Part 6 of the Rules.)
If a defendant is acquitted in the Crown Court then in some cases the Attorney General can ask the Court of Appeal to review the way the Crown Court interpreted the law. If the Attorney General thinks that the Crown Court gave a defendant too lenient a sentence then in some cases the Attorney can ask the Court of Appeal to increase the sentence. This Part contains rules about those requests.
This Part contains rules about appeals against Crown Court decisions to do with confiscation and restraint orders. (There are rules about those orders in Part 33 of the Rules.)
Sometimes a person who has been involved in an appeal to the Court of Appeal can appeal to the Supreme Court if they think the Court of Appeal made a mistake of law. The Court of Appeal must be asked to give a certificate that ‘a point of law of general public importance’ is involved. This Part contains rules about applications to the Court of Appeal for a certificate.
Sometimes a defendant may not receive a summons or requisition to go to a magistrates’ court and may not find out about the case in another way until the case is over. If that happens, the defendant can apply for the case to be restarted. Sometimes a magistrates’ court can change a decision that it has made. This Part contains rules about applications to restart cases or change decisions.
The court can make orders about the payment of legal fees (‘costs’). This Part lists the orders the court can make. It contains rules about how the court must exercise its powers to make costs orders and about applying for orders.
The court needs to know who a person’s lawyer (‘legal representative’) is, if they have one. Where a defendant has legal aid, they must ask the court if they want to change that representative. This Part contains rules about notices and applications to do with legal representatives.
The court can make orders and issue search warrants to help the police and other investigators to investigate suspected crimes. Sometimes the court can make other orders to do with an investigation. This Part lists those orders and warrants. It contains rules about applications for them.
The court can punish people who disobey court orders or disrupt cases in court. That type of behaviour is called ‘contempt of court’. This Part contains rules about how the court must exercise its powers.
In some cases, courts in England and Wales can make orders and receive evidence to help courts abroad. This Part contains rules about the exercise of those powers.
Where someone in England or Wales is wanted for prosecution or sentencing in a court in another country, a judge in England or Wales can order their extradition to that other country. The wanted person and that country can appeal to the High Court against an extradition decision. This Part contains rules about dealing with extradition requests and appeals
Criminal Practice Directions 2023 contents
Case management rules extract