Fedster + 1,307 Posted December 1, 2020 Share Posted December 1, 2020 Inspection warns that disclosure improvements deal is "starting to drift" and CPS has "feedback fatigue". Prosecution partnership between police and CPS Date - 1st December 2020 By - Gary Mason The National Disclosure Improvement Plan between police forces and the CPS is under strain and “starting to drift” according to a follow up inspection by HM Crown Prosecution Inspectorate. The report on the disclosure of unused material at the Crown Court is a follow up to recommendations made in an earlier inspection carried out in January which found room for improvement. The inspection says that the National Disclosure Improvement Plan (NDIP) “is crucial” to making tangible improvements but on a number of measures, the prosecution team partnership is under strain. It says the police’s compliance with disclosure requirements is deteriorating, the CPS’s feedback to officers on disclosure has decreased, and this “culminates in weaker management and handling of disclosure material”. The HMCPI report warned that the lack of feedback “may be a sign of fatigue or prosecutors beginning to lose heart that no matter how much they feedback, there are few signs of improvement.” The cases examined in the inspection were all charged on or after 1 August 2019 and listed for the Crown Court up to Friday 20 March 2020. HMCPI chose this cut-off date so that the file sample would only include cases up to the point when the first coronavirus lockdown began It also examined many more cases where the defendant was in custody where there is substantially less information available to the prosecutor at the point of charge than in cases where the defendant is bailed or released under investigation. The report found that the focus of the improvements made to date under the NDIP had started to drift pointing to a “fundamental problem” in the service provided by the police to the CPS and the quality of the prosecutor’s review at charging in relation to disclosure issues. This included the identification of reasonable lines of inquiry. A number of case studies were provided. These included a customer in a bar who alleged that, after he had been ejected from the premises, he had been assaulted by the suspect, who was one of the bar’s security staff. The police told the charging lawyer about all the unused material and identified the items that undermined the case against the suspect, who was claiming he acted in self-defence. These included CCTV footage and accounts given by the suspect and his colleagues to the management of the bar. The police set out their reasoning for why the material was unused, and how it related to the case; this provided enough information for the lawyer to be able to determine that the prosecution would be unable to disprove self-defence. Unfortunately, the lawyer advised charge and the case concluded with the prosecution offering no evidence on the day of trial. In another case a mobile phone was seized from a defendant who was alleged to have been involved in the production of cannabis. There was a significant delay in the analysis of the contents of the phone, some of which were not in English and needed translating. At charge, the prosecutor did not give any guidance as to the level of download required or set any parameters, which may have contributed to the delay. The result came in less than 14 days before trial. The contents proved not to be unused material after all, but damning evidence of the defendant’s involvement. Not all the unused material available at charge will meet the test for disclosure but, in the cases examined by the inspection 55% of it did. Some of this is material that will be revealed to the defence when initial disclosure is undertaken after a not guilty plea. In some instances, however, the prosecutor is required to make early disclosure in accordance with the common law, as set out in DPP v Lee. This is the case when a piece of unused material could assist the defence in making a bail application or in the early preparation of their case. Examples would include where the complainant has a previous conviction for dishonesty in a case where their credibility is challenged by the defence, or where supplying details for a witness who supports the defence’s account would enable the defence to take a statement from them before their memory fades. Despite the importance of recognising what unused material is disclosable to the defence, in the insection’s file sample, the police identified less than half of it (41%) as meeting the statutory disclosure test or that in DPP v Lee. Despite the overall neagative tone of the HMCPI inspection it did identify some aspects of disclosure performance that had shown some signs of improvement. These included: the completion of disclosure management documents by the police and CPS the police’s response to defence statements the identification of material that needed to be disclosed at the first hearing the instructions given in the charging advice to court prosecutors and reviewing lawyers the timeliness of serving initial and continuing disclosure View On Police Oracle Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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