Guidance

Criminal Procedure Rules and Practice Directions 2020

The latest versions of the Criminal Procedure Rules and of the Criminal Practice Directions made by the Lord Chief Justice.

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.

On this page, you can:

  • read online, or download and save, the latest versions of the Criminal Procedure Rules and of the Criminal Practice Directions made by the Lord Chief Justice.
  • read or download the complete Rules and Practice Directions, or read or download separate Parts of the Rules and separate divisions of the Practice Directions.

The Criminal Procedure Rules are published at legislation.gov.uk.

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.

Rules and Practice Directions contents

General matters (including case management)

Part 1 The overriding objective (MS Word Document, 86.5KB)

This Part states the objective for all the other rules. It places duties on the court and on everyone involved in a case.

Part 2 Understanding and applying the rules and powers of authorised court officers (MS Word Document, 151KB)

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.

Part 2 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 152KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Part 3 Case management (MS Word Document, 239KB)

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.

Part 3 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 239KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Part 4 Service of documents (MS Word Document, 110KB)

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.

Part 5 Forms and court records (MS Word Document, 127KB)

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.

Part 5 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 127KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Part 6 Reporting, etc. restrictions (MS Word Document, 125KB)

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.

Criminal Practice Directions I: General matters (PDF, 882KB, 67 pages)

Preliminary proceedings

Part 7 Starting a prosecution in a magistrates' court (MS Word Document, 104KB)

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.

Part 8 Initial details of the prosecution case (MS Word Document, 85.5KB)

This Part lists the information that a prosecutor must give a defendant at the beginning of a case.

Part 9 Allocation and sending for trial (MS Word Document, 148KB)

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.

Part 10 The indictment (MS Word Document, 113KB)

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.

Part 11 Deferred prosecution agreements (MS Word Document, 116KB)

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.

Part 12 Discontinuing a prosecution (MS Word Document, 87.5KB)

This Part contains rules about what a prosecutor must do to stop a prosecution.

Criminal Practice Directions II: Preliminary proceedings (PDF, 421KB, 11 pages)

Custody and bail

Part 13 Warrants for arrest, detention or imprisonment (MS Word Document, 110KB)

This Part contains rules about the information that must be included in the types of warrant to which it applies.

Part 14 Bail and custody time limits (MS Word Document, 220KB)

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.

Part 14 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 220KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Criminal Practice Directions III: Custody and bail (PDF, 401KB, 10 pages)

Disclosure

Part 15 Disclosure (MS Word Document, 122KB)

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.

Criminal Practice Directions IV: Disclosure (PDF, 76.3KB, 1 page)

Evidence

Part 16 Written witness statements (MS Word Document, 90KB)

This Part contains rules about the content of statements by witnesses and about objecting to the use of written witness statements as evidence.

Part 17 Witness summonses, warrants and orders (MS Word Document, 104KB)

This Part contains rules about applying for court orders for witnesses to come to court or provide documents.

Part 18 Measures to assist a witness or defendant to give evidence (MS Word Document, 162KB)

This Part contains rules about applying for directions to help a witness or the defendant to give their evidence, and rules about objecting to those directions.

Part 18 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 179KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Part 19 Expert evidence (MS Word Document, 109KB)

This Part contains rules about how medical, scientific and other expert evidence can be introduced.

Part 20 Hearsay evidence (MS Word Document, 96.5KB)

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.

Part 21 Evidence of bad character (MS Word Document, 102KB)

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.

Part 22 Evidence of a complainant’s previous sexual behaviour (MS Word Document, 103KB)

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.

Part 23 Restriction on cross-examination by a defendant (MS Word Document, 112KB)

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.

Criminal Practice Directions V: Evidence (PDF, 648KB, 45 pages)

Trial

Part 24 Trial and sentence in a magistrates' court (MS Word Document, 182KB)

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.

Part 24 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 183KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Part 25 Trial and sentence in the Crown Court (MS Word Document, 171KB)

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.

Part 25 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 171KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Part 26 Jurors (MS Word Document, 93KB)

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.

Part 27 Retrial after acquittal (MS Word Document, 113KB)

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.

Criminal Practice Directions VI: Trial (PDF, 624KB, 40 pages)

Sentencing

Part 28 Sentencing procedures in special cases (MS Word Document, 150KB)

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.

Part 28 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 150KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Part 29 Road traffic penalties (MS Word Document, 121KB)

This Part contains rules about some special procedures to do with sentences for driving offences.

Part 30 Enforcement of fines and other orders for payment (MS Word Document, 119KB)

This Part contains rules about what the court can do to enforce a fine and about applications to the court to do with fines.

Part 31 Behaviour orders (MS Word Document, 132KB)

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.

Part 32 Breach, revocation and amendment of community and other orders (MS Word Document, 92.5KB)

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.

Criminal Practice Directions VII: Sentencing (PDF, 644KB, 35 pages)

Part 33 Confiscation and related proceedings (MS Word Document, 298KB)

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.

[There are no Criminal Practice Directions relating to confiscation and related proceedings.]

Appeal

Part 34 Appeal to the Crown Court (MS Word Document, 128KB)

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.

Part 35 Appeal to the High Court by case stated (MS Word Document, 98KB)

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.

Part 36 Appeal to the Court of Appeal: general rules (MS Word Document, 128KB)

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.

Part 37 Appeal to the Court of Appeal against ruling at preparatory hearing (MS Word Document, 99.5KB)

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’.

Part 38 Appeal to the Court of Appeal against ruling adverse to prosecution (MS Word Document, 105KB)

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.

Part 39 Appeal to the Court of Appeal about conviction or sentence (MS Word Document, 148KB)

This Part contains rules about appeals by defendants against conviction or sentence in the Crown Court and about some other types of appeal.

Part 40 Appeal to the Court of Appeal about reporting or public access restriction (MS Word Document, 102KB)

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.)

Part 41 Reference to the Court of Appeal of point of law or unduly lenient sentencing (MS Word Document, 101KB)

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.

Part 42 Appeal to the Court of Appeal in confiscation and related proceedings (MS Word Document, 125KB)

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.)

Part 43 Appeal or reference to the Supreme Court (MS Word Document, 106KB)

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.

Part 44 Reopening a case in a magistrates’ court (MS Word Document, 96.5KB)

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.

Criminal Practice Directions IX: Appeal (PDF, 482KB, 13 pages)

Costs

Part 45 Costs (MS Word Document, 172KB)

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.

Criminal Practice Directions X: Costs (PDF, 673KB, 52 pages)

Other proceedings

Part 46 Representatives (MS Word Document, 105KB)

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.

Part 47 Investigation orders and warrants (MS Word Document, 448KB)

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.

Part 47 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 448KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Part 48 Contempt of court (MS Word Document, 141KB)

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.

Part 49 International co-operation (MS Word Document, 149KB)

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.

Part 50 Extradition (MS Word Document, 227KB)

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

Part 50 temporarily amended (MS Word Document, 228KB)

See rule 2.1(4) of the Rules. This text includes those temporary amendments.

Criminal Practice Directions XI: Other proceedings (PDF, 503KB, 22 pages)

General and listing practice directions

Criminal Practice Directions XII: General application (PDF, 429KB, 11 pages)

Criminal Practice Directions XIII: Listing (PDF, 606KB, 31 pages)

Glossary

Glossary (MS Word Document, 133KB)

Case management rules extract

Case management rules extract (MS Word Document, 134KB)

Forms to use with the Rules

Recent announcements

Statutory instruments

Other procedure rules for magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court

Archive versions of the Criminal Procedure Rules

Published 5 October 2020