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'There has been a shift in attitude on disclosure' says policing minster


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He is 'satisfied' by private conversations with police chiefs.

'There has been a shift in attitude on disclosure' says policing minster

The minister for policing told MPs he is “persuaded” police leaders are making strong progress on the systemic disclosure failings exposed by the collapse of hundreds of cases.

Giving evidence to the Justice Committee on Tuesday, Nick Hurd said he “does not want to be naïve [but] detects a change in terms of the approach and importance that police leadership attach to sorting the mess out”.

“It has been a serious problem for a very long time,” he added.

“The way I look at it is this is pretty fundamental to confidence in our criminal justice system. It’s quite fundamental to our trust in police, we know how fragile trust is in this day and age, it’s as important as that, and I think they [senior police] get it.

“They have persuaded me of a number of things one of them is that senior leadership buy into a plan.

“I am satisfied by the public comments made and the private conversations I’ve had that there is a widespread recognition of the seriousness of the problem and the need for a more robust response than we have had seen in the past.

“I get the impression it is the right shape of a plan and it is being driven hard, that it’s a sensible plan. But we have got to hold them [the police] to account because there have been assurances in the past that haven’t really been followed through.

“I do feel that there has been a shift and an honesty about the underlying problem and a recognition that not enough importance has been attached to this.

“It’s [disclosure] been seen in their language as being a bit of a bureaucratic bolt on.”  

Although he insisted he is “very sensitive” to the pressure frontline officers face he does not believe the disclosure failings stem from lack of resources.

“They [senior police] realise and they’ve told me this privately as well as in their public statements they’ve been too slow to grasp and challenge the cultural attitude problem. They could have blamed lots of things on other people. They’ve been very candid in saying we’ve got a cultural attitude problem.

“[Chief Constable] Nick Ephgrave could have said this is all a problem about police resources and he didn’t. What he said to the committee was there are challenges around resources but the problems around disclosure predate austerity.

“I think I have proved by my actions I absolutely recognise the need for more resources into the police system.  

“The independent inspectorate has made it clear we have to manage a very big capability gap around detectives. We have a deficit of around 5,000 detectives which is obviously a big number.

“Are there overstretched police officers? Yes”

After being questioned about reports so far only 6,000 officers have received the new disclosure training Mr Hurd would not put a deadline for forces to train all of their officers by.

But he said he expects “full and regular transparency on this number.”

Attorney General Jeremy Wright also said he does not believe “we are in this mess" because the police are starved of funds.

He added: “It would be foolish to deny if we’re going to do this in a smarter way in the future we’re going to need some investment.

 “We’re well behind the curve on this technological investment the Home Office need to make.

“It’s also right that having made that investment you will make savings. This would be smart investment.

“Two things need to be done. First of all you’ve got to have the kit, you’ve got to have a system that enables you to filter this kind of information and that’s exactly the work the Home Office is doing at the moment. But you don’t discount the need to carry on doing good old fashioned police work.”

He said disclosure has been a serious problem since he was called to the bar in 1996, which is the year the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act which enshrined in law a duty to disclose evidence.

“It is wrong to suggest any single part of the criminal justice system bears sole responsibility for this. There has got to be a joint approach to this and we have all got to share the responsibility for getting it right. 

"The reason I think in part things haven’t changed in the way that they should have is because there’s been too much reliance on simply saying the police haven’t done their bit.”  

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Not surprised, when CPIA came in not may people had computers and mobile phone were in their infancy. I had the initial training when the Act came in and it was really only around retaining paper documents. The world and technology has moved on massively and the law / practices haven't followed suit.  

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