Who's who in criminal justice: a short guide to the key agencies
It helps to know who does what if you need to contact parts of the criminal justice system
The criminal justice system in England and Wales is large and complicated. It has lots of separate agencies doing different jobs. This section gives a quick overview of some of the key agencies involved and what they do.
The UK police force is responsible for building safer and more secure communities. There are 43 police forces in England and Wales employing over 239,600 people, including over 142,000 police officers, 81,000 police staff and 16,000 community support officers.
Crown Prosecution Service
The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. Its work includes:
- advising the police on cases for possible prosecution
- reviewing cases submitted by the police
- determining any charges in all but minor cases
- preparing cases for court
- presenting cases at court.
The Home Office is the lead government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, counter-terrorism and police.
Ministry of Justice
The Ministry of Justice is one of the largest government departments and is responsible for criminal, civil and family justice, democracy, rights and the constitution. It employs around 95,000 people and has a budget of £9.2 billion. Every year around nine million people use its services in 900 locations across the United Kingdom, including 650 courts and tribunals and 139 prisons in England and Wales.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)
The CICA is the government body that runs the criminal injuries compensation scheme in England, Scotland and Wales. It is part of the Ministry of Justice. The Authority is based in Glasgow and has over 450 staff.
Probation services are responsible for overseeing offenders released from prison on licence and those on community sentences. Probation also prepares pre-sentence reports for judges and magistrates in the courts to enable them to choose the most appropriate sentence. Probation officers also work in prisons to prepare offenders for release.
Probation also runs the Victim Contact Scheme which works with victims of crime in cases where the offender has been sentenced to custody for 12 months or more for a sexual or violent offence. Through the scheme victims can request to be kept informed of key developments during the offender’s sentence, for example when an offender is moved to a different category of prison. It also provides a means for victims to put forward their views on what conditions should be placed on the offender when they are released. This might include, for example, a condition not to contact a victim or their family.
Family liaison Officers (FLO)
A police Family Liaison Officer is a uniformed or plain-clothed investigating police officer assigned to serious crimes such as homicide. They act as a key point of contact between affected families and the police. While they do provide information and support, their primary role is to help with the investigation of the crime, for example if a family member is a suspect in the case.
Victim care unit
This is a phrase sometimes used within Victim Support to describe a local 'hub' where one of our victim care teams is based. The unit takes referrals of victims from the police as well as any enquiries direct from victims and contacts people to find out how Victim Support can help. The unit then makes sure that support is given and follows up each victim to make sure their needs have been met after a crime.
Witness care unit
Witness Care Units are government run offices that manage the care of victims and prosecution witnesses from the time when someone is charged with a crime right through to the end of the case. They are staffed jointly by police and people from the Crown Prosecution Service. They help steering people through the criminal justice process and co-ordinate support and other services.
Her Majesty's Court Service
Her Majesty’s Courts Service is an agency of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) that is responsible for delivering justice effectively and efficiently to the public. It provides administration and support for the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Crown Court, the magistrates' courts, the county courts and the Probate Service.
National Offender Management Service (NOMS)
NOMS is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, which brings together the headquarters of the Probation Service and the Prison Service. While both of these organisations are still distinct - they work together through NOMS to help protect the public and reduce reoffending.
Victim Support is a national charity across England and Wales dedicated to helping victims and witnesses of crime and campaigning for improvements to benefit them. We have around 1,450 staff and approximately 5,500 specially trained volunteers providing support in the community and at court.
The Witness Service is part of the charity Victim Support - dedicated to helping make the experience of going to court as a witnesses easier. It does this by providing information, practical help and emotional support at every criminal court in England and Wales.