Police and prosecutors announce action on disclosure

Northern Constabulary Force Helicopter 1998 - by Dave Conner via Flickr

The measures – on top of actions taken over the last few months – are contained in a plan published today by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing.    

They include:

  • Reviewing disclosure training with the College of Policing
  • Developing a cadre of specialist and experienced disclosure experts in every force
  • Providing all multimedia evidence from the CPS to the defence digitally
  • Putting in place specific improvement plans for each force and CPS area
  • Setting up a system for the CPS and police to better identify and deal with cases with significant and complex disclosure issues.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, said:

“The CPS and police have a vital role in ensuring there is a fair trial process in place to protect the public. Proper disclosure is a fundamental part of this.

“The steps we have already taken, along with the measures we have announced today, are aimed at tackling the deep-rooted and systemic disclosure issues which are of great concern to us all.

“Changes in society such as the vastly increasing use of social media and mobile phone messaging bring challenges that all parts of the criminal justice system, despite the resourcing challenges, must deal with. That’s why last week I brought together senior figures from across the system to focus on the challenges and agree our plan of action.

“I’m clear that we must make effective change happen quickly – and then keep driving these improvements in the months ahead.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Criminal Justice, Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave said: 

“Disclosure is an essential element of the criminal justice process, but has too often been seen as an administrative task completed at the end of an investigation, exacerbated by the rapid expansion of digital material involved in almost every case.  We now need to firmly embed disclosure in the investigative mindset from the outset of any investigation.

“Reviews of recent cases have shown a range of issues leading to failures but there has been no intention by officers to conceal information.  This plan will support investigators to get disclosure right by making responsibilities and processes clearer, systems easier to use, providing access to expert support and training together with improved oversight and leadership.

“We are confident this plan will lead to real improvements in quick time but it also looks to the future, particularly the opportunities that new technologies could offer us.”

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Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave

Alison Saunders added:

“We are taking steps to identify any individual cases of concern as a matter of urgency. All cases are subject to regular and ongoing scrutiny, but senior prosecutors across England and Wales are currently assessing all live rape and serious sexual assault cases to check they are satisfied that disclosure obligations have been met.

“Inevitably, bringing forward these case reviews means it is likely that there may be a number of cases which we will be stopping at around the same time.  

“The checks and balances throughout the process are designed to identify issues before trial, allowing cases to be stopped when that’s appropriate. However, in light of the current public concern it is right that we satisfy ourselves that decisions are being made as soon as they possibly can be.”

Since the publication of the Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) report Making it fair in July last year, the CPS and NPCC have taken a number of steps to improve the way it deals with disclosure, including:

  • Improving the CPS digital case management system to make it easier to deal with evidential material
  • Reviewing the police HOLMES computers system to ensure sensitive material is stored and disclosed properly
  • Refreshing the CPS Disclosure Manual. An updated version to assist both the police and prosecutors in meeting their obligations will be published shortly
  • Establishing CPS disclosure champions to give advice and support in area such as training for prosecutors

The improvement plan is available here.

 

Click here to read more.

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