Following on from the 2017 HMCPSI joint inspection report, Making It Fair: The Disclosure of Unused Material in Volume Crown Court Cases, a further report has been released.
This new report examines the progress made since the original report, which identified concerns and considered that there would need to be a determined cultural change if the police and CPS would comply fully with what the law requires of them.
While perhaps shocking to read such direct criticism, the conclusion came as no surprise to defence lawyers who know all too well the disclosure issues that are all too present in cases.
The progress review examined 555 cases two weeks before their trials were due to begin, and 560 cases at the charging stage. These cases were selected evenly from all 14 CPS areas across England and Wales.
While improvements were found, these were not good enough and it has been expressly stated that only full compliance will be good enough.
In part, this new report found:
- Improvement from a baseline in tranche one of 46.3% to a final position of 73.7% in cases examined of the CPS correctly advising the police in the charging advice on reasonable lines of enquiry.
- An increase of over 20% in the number of cases where the CPS charging advice dealt properly with disclosable and non-disclosable unused material being assessed by inspectors of fully meeting the required standard (from 28.6% to 49.2%).
- Compliance with the post-charge duty of initial disclosure in relation to non-disclosable unused material improving from 55.4% to 63.4% and in relation to disclosable unused material from 62.0% to 72.3%.
- Compliance with the duty of continuing disclosure in relation to non-disclosable unused material improving from 69.8% to 83.8% and in relation to disclosable unused material improving from 72.6% to 82.8%.
- Compliance with the requirement for the prosecutor to review the defence statement and provide comments and advice to the police improved from 41.2% to 60.0%.
- There was improvement in pre-charge cases of the CPS identifying and feeding back to the police failings of the police handling of unused material from an initial baseline of 5.6% to 15.5%; however this is still very poor performance as it means that in over 80% of cases the CPS failed to feedback to police.
- CPS charging advices dealing properly with disclosable and non-disclosable unused material improved from 33.2% to 55.8% and there was improvement of the CPS advising the police at charging on reasonable lines of enquiry from the initial baseline of 75.9% to 93.8%.
While improvement is better than none, we agree that full compliance should be the benchmark. The criminal justice system depends on the police and CPS performing their duties correctly, and we here at Forrest Williams remain committed to ensure that this happens for our clients.
If you need help for a criminal legal case, call our office now on 01623 397200.