How does the Criminal Justice System work? The Criminal Justice System is split into 3 national sections: The Ministry of Justice, which oversees the magistrates’ courts, the Crown Court, the Appeals Courts, the Legal Services Commission and the National Offender Management Service (including prisons and probation); the Home Office, which oversees the police and the Attorney General’s Office, which oversees the Crown Prosecution Service, the Serious Fraud Office and the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office.


The Police investigate cases gathering evidence that they then present to the Crown Prosecution Service which then decides whether to continue with the case or not. If a case is continued, it then moves to the various courts in the land be they at magistrates level or Crown court. In certain cases the Police do have the power to issue a warning or a caution to an offender and if this happens the offender will not go before a court.


The purpose of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is to deliver justice for all, by convicting and punishing the guilty and helping them to stop offending, while protecting the innocent. It is responsible for detecting crime and bringing it to justice; and carrying out the orders of court, such as collecting fines, and supervising community and custodial punishment.


The CJS measures its performance using 5 categories or ‘indicators’:


      Indicator 1: Bringing offences to justice


      Indicator 2: Increasing public confidence


      Indicator 3: Victim and Witness satisfaction


      Indicator 4: Addressing race disproportionality


      Indicator 5: Asset recovery


Bringing offences to justice is a key measure of the effectiveness of the CJS.

An offence is said to have been brought to justice when a recorded crime results in an offender being convicted, cautioned, issued with a penalty notice for disorder (PND), a warning, or having an offence taken into consideration (TIC).

Indicator 1 supports improved performance in bringing serious violent, sexual and acquisitive offences to justice. Data has been published on both the volume of such offences brought to justice, and the volume of recorded crime.


Improving public confidence is important because the CJS relies on public co-operation and involvement to function effectively. The level of public confidence in the CJS is measured through a series of questions in the British Crime Survey (BCS). The BCS is a continuous survey of adults aged 16 or over living in private households in England and Wales.


Two questions serve as key performance measures:


      How confident are you that the CJS as a whole is effective?


      How confident are you that the CJS as a whole is fair?


The level of public confidence for each of these measures is defined as the proportion who say that they are ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ confident.


Indicator No. 3 measures how satisfied victims and witnesses are with the support they received from the police and other criminal justice agencies. The indicator has two linked measures:


      Victim satisfaction with the police: this assesses victims’ experience of reporting a crime and the initial police response. It is measured through surveys with victims carried out by police forces.


      Victim and witness satisfaction with the CJS: this assesses the experience of victims and witnesses in cases where a charge is brought or which go to court. It is measured through the Witness and Victim Experience Survey (WAVES).


Indicator No. 4 is measured through the roll-out of the Minimum Data Set (MDS) programme. Its purpose is to equip LCJBs with a robust ethnicity dataset on suspects, defendants and offenders experiences, with accompanying guidance on data use and analysis.

The MDS aims to empower Local Criminal Justice Board’s (LCJB’s) to identify local disproportionality issues and tailor effective solutions that will work for them. In addition to the MDS a series of diagnostic tools assist LCJBs in identifying and addressing the causes of disproportionality in those areas which are not covered by the MDS, or are particularly challenging:


      Employment (recruitment, retention and progression)


      Prosecution of hate crimes


      Victim and witness satisfaction


      Sentencing decisions


      Bail decisions




The aim of Indicator No. 5 is to reassure the public that crime does not pay; increase public confidence; reduce harm; deter, disrupt and detect criminals; remove criminal role models and secure compensation for victims of crime.


Asset recovery comprises:




      Cash forfeiture


      Civil recovery and tax recovery


      International recovery



LCJBs have targets for the confiscation element.


Confiscation Orders: confiscation orders are obtained and enforced by various agencies at local, regional and national level. At the local level, LCJBs have set themselves targets for the value collected from the enforcement of confiscation orders and also for the volume and value of new confiscation and restraint orders obtained at court. Only Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Branch are responsible for meeting the LCJB 2009/10 target.


Alongside indicators 1 to 5, key areas of enforcement activity are measured to monitor delivery at operational level to ensure that offenders comply with the sentences and orders of the court. To achieve this, LCJBs have set themselves targets on measures to improve the speed and efficiency with which Community Penalty Breaches are resolved, and to improve defendant attendance.


Financial Penalties: in previous years, LCJBs have also had targets for fine enforcement. From 2009/10, these targets are owned solely by Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS).



Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex