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Crown Prosecution Service and NPCC unveil detailed plans to tackle issue of disclosure

Alison Saunders: Director of Public Prosecutions

Alison Saunders: Director of Public Prosecutions

A package of measures designed to improve how the criminal justice system deals with disclosure has been unveiled. The measures – on top of actions taken over the last few months – are contained in a plan published 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 and setting up a system for the CPS and the police to better identify and deal with cases with significant and complex disclosure issues.

Vital role to play

Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said: “The CPS and the police have a vital role to play in ensuring there’s a fair trial process in place to protect the public. Proper disclosure is a fundamental part of this. The steps we’ve already taken, along with the measures now being announced, are aimed at tackling the deep-rooted and systemic disclosure issues which are of great concern to us all.”

Saunders continued: “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 must deal with despite the resourcing challenges. That’s why, last week, I brought together senior figures from across the system to focus on the challenges and agree on 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.”

Chief constable Nick Ephgrave, the NPCC’s lead for criminal justice, stated: “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.”

Ephgrave also outlined: “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 ensure that disclosure is right by making responsibilities and processes clearer and systems easier to use and by providing access to expert support and training together with improved oversight and leadership. We’re confident that this plan will lead to real improvements in quick time, but it also looks to the future, and in particular the opportunities that new technologies could offer us.”

Individual cases of concern

Alison Saunders also commented: “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 that they’re satisfied all disclosure obligations have been met. Inevitably, bringing forward these case reviews means it’s likely that there may be a number of cases which we will be stopping at around the same time.”

Saunders concluded: “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’s only right we satisfy ourselves that decisions are being made as soon as they possibly can be.”

Since the publication of Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate’s (HMCPSI) report ‘Making It Fair’ in July last year, the CPS and the NPCC have taken a number of steps to improve the way in which disclosure is dealt with, including by 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) and establishing CPS disclosure champions to give advice and support in areas such as training for prosecutors.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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