The Justice Committee published a report on 20th July 2018 which considers the disclosure of unused material in criminal cases. The report concludes that problems with disclosure have led to miscarriages of justice.
The findings, unfortunately, do not come as a surprise for those working within the criminal justice system.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have a duty to disclose relevant material collected by the Police in criminal cases. In order for a case to be prepared properly, it is imperative that the Prosecution provide the accused or his/her representatives with material which may reasonably undermine their case.
Earlier this year, the issue of non-disclosure was widely reported, and the Government announced an Attorney General’s review would take place. This is yet to conclude. The Report prepared by the Justice Committee finds that disclosure failings have “prevailed for too long” and that both complainants and defendants have been affected by these failings, which have led to miscarriages of justice.
The Committee comments that “the Government must consider whether funding across the system is sufficient to ensure a good disclosure regime.”
It is widely recognised that part of the problem in disclosure failings is a lack of resources. Cuts to CPS and Police, along with cuts to Legal Aid, have damaged the system. If you have followed these issues on social media, the hashtag #TheLawIsBroken, will be familiar to you.
Within the report, the CPS are said to have failed to accurately record the number of disclosure failings. For example, in a six week period between January and February 2018, the CPS recorded a mere 5 of 47 sex cases which were stopped due to disclosure errors.
Although of late, issues in Crown Court disclosure have been reported, little or nothing has been said in relation to disclosure in Magistrates Court cases. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Sanders, has claimed that disclosure in the lower courts is not an issue. This could not be further from the truth. The Report recognises the issues confirming the need for “urgent attention”.
You can view the report here: