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Justice Committee inquiry into the disclosure of evidence in criminal cases

23rd March 2018

Overview: This inquiry aimed to investigate disclosure procedures fully to ensure they are fit for purpose and that the steps proposed to address existing issues are sufficient to resolve them. The Committee’s findings will feed into the Attorney General’s ongoing review.

Summary: The PCCs response to this consultation raised a number of issues:

  • The legislative framework, rules and procedures appear satisfactory, however concerns arise from how disclosure works in practice.
  • The recent and past failings of criminal justice agencies in disclosure appear to stem from a lack of understanding of how to perform disclosure duties adequately, not from any intentional withholding of relevant material which undermines the prosecution or assists the defence. There is a need for better training across the board, particularly regarding electronic data, which appears to cause the majority of issues.
  • Failings are not confined to sex cases, but all criminal cases.
  • There is a need for scrutiny of the rights of complainants and improvements in how disclosure of third party confidential material is handled.
  • There is a need for police and CPS to work more closely together from the outset of a case to ensure all relevant lines of inquiry are established and agreed.