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The Prosecutors

The Prosecutors focuses on how our criminal justice system works by following various prosecutions from start to finish. The series from The Open University and the BBC had exclusive fly-on-the-wall access to the CPS.

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Claire Lindley, Chief Crown Prosecutors, in a courtroom Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Gold Star Productions/BBC The Crown Prosecution Service is often under scrutiny for its decision-making. Now for the very first time the CPS has allowed cameras in. Filmed over 18 months with prosecutors in Merseyside, Cheshire and the South East, including the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, this ground-breaking series The Prosecutors goes behind the scenes to reveal how our criminal justice system really works and what it takes to secure a conviction. Each episode focuses on a different part of the process, following prosecutions and those involved in the case from start to finish. 

As series co-producer we've provided a wealth of content to help you learn more about the Crown Prosecution Service, justice and the law. You can:

The Prosecutors was first broadcast on BBC4 on Wednesday 24th February 2016; and is being repeated in March 2018. For further broadcast details, and to watch online where available, please visit the BBC programme pages

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The Trial

Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Gold Star Productions/ BBC In this final episode of the series, prosecutors in the Complex Casework units of CPS Mersey-Cheshire and CPS South-East are preparing for trials in separate historic cases.

In 1993, a few days after her 16th birthday, Claire Tiltman was murdered in an alleyway.  Since Colin Ash-Smith admitted to other knife attacks in the same area, he has been the main suspect for the crime. In 1996 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for those offences. But without direct evidence, he was not charged with the murder of Claire Tiltman.

Claire’s parents died before seeing her killer brought to justice and a group of her school friends took up the campaign to keep the case in the public eye. Now using a change in the law, which might allow the jury to know about Ash-Smith’s other attacks, and the similarities between them, prosecutor Nigel Pilkington is trying to build a circumstantial case against Colin Ash-Smith.

In Mersey Cheshire a non-recent sex abuse case is being prepared for trial. Keith Cavendish Coulson is facing 42 counts of indecent assault on boys in the 1970s and 80s. He says they’re lying and it never happened. The CPS’ handling of non-recent sex abuse cases is often highly controversial and Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, is involved in overseeing the case.

Cases committed a long time ago are charged and sentenced according to the law at the time. As Cavendish Coulson’s offences were in the 1970s and 80s, they can only charge him under the old law of 1956. Historic cases also present challenges, as the memories of witnesses might have faded and evidence might no longer be available. But moving testimony from Cavendish Coulson’s accusers suggests they have far from forgotten these offences.

More on witnesses and memory

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
The Charge A child has been killed in a collision, how will the Prosecutors charge the driver? Read more
The Proof How do prosecutors deal with two horrific murders and a victim of an assault who is unhappy her attacker was not... Read more
The Trial How do historic cases work where changes in that law has allowed retrials but old witnesses and evidence can be hard... Read more




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