The CLSA is pleased that the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee has today published its report into disclosure in criminal proceedings. We thank the Select Committee for inviting us to take part in their investigation, for their diligence and concern in investigating the issue of disclosure failings and for their important work in general.
The CLSA has been at the forefront of the battle for proper disclosure for many years. In 2017 following our campaign we managed to secure an important change to the Criminal Procedure Rules to prevent the CPS relying on material absent from IDPC at early hearings, and our survey of members and joint survey with the BBC not only led to widespread interest and concern in the state of disclosure, but to an Attorney General’s review of disclosure, urgent meetings with the Senior Presiding Judge and Criminal Procedure Rules Committee and the establishment of the National Disclosure Improvement Forum, which we attend regularly with the CPS, police and other interested parties. Last year our conference theme was disclosure and we heard first hand about the issues in cases.
We would recommend members read the report here and note in particular the recognition in the report that privacy and data protection cannot trump the search for truth in our justice system, and that the new Attorney General must take full responsibility for the CPS, and that together with the new DPP, must make resolving cultural and practical issues effecting disclosure a focus. The Select Committee asks for frequent updates and for a plan setting out the resource requirement to fix the broken system, and also recognises that the Legal Aid regime is part of the problem as it fails to remunerate litigators and advocates for considering unused material, as well as material beyond 6000 pages of evidence
We are of the view that great care should be taken when considering what, if any, limitations we as a society should be prepared to accept in making material in the possession of investigators available to the defence when engaged in the search for truth and justice in criminal proceedings. We wholeheartedly reject the argument made to the JSC that a more full disclosure regime would place a unreasonable burden on the CPS as prosecutors would want to review material before serving it – on the contrary we believe it is essential that prosecutors review all the material in any event and IT improvements and the much-vaunted digitisation process must remove both logistical and financial costs from proper disclosure. Put simply, there is no acceptable excuse for poor disclosure and miscarriages of justice We welcome recent changes made by the CPS and Police and their recent engagement with us to improve the training and culture of the police and CPS and we hope that the current sharp focus on these issues is not just the latest fad but will instead lead to lasting change.
Put simply, we will monitoring the situation and members and the public at large can be rest assured we will continue to campaign on this important issue.