Categorized | Criminal Justice, Legal Aid

Criminal Law Solicitors Association disclosure survey

As part of its campaign, with others, to ensure that both the Prosecuting authorities and the Courts comply with the Law and Criminal procedure rules, the Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) is conducting a disclosure survey.

The CLSA has long challenged what it claims to be repeated failures by prosecutors to disclose information on time, and has begun collecting examples from solicitors to present to the Ministry of Justice, the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee and the Commons justice select committee.

The laws and rules are supposed to maintain balance, fairness and efficiency in the Criminal Justice system. The survey seeks information about experience of disclosure of evidence failings, or late service by the Prosecution, and the frequency of such failure. Specifically, the attitude of the Court when the defence have brought the disclosure failure to the attention of the Court is sought and opinion on the desirability of strengthening the requirements.

CLSA pose one particular question: “At the trial or final contested hearing, where late service of documents, media or any other evidence places the defence under unreasonable logistical or time pressure would you support a strengthening of CrimPR 24.13 so such evidence can only be admitted by leave of the court in exceptional circumstances or by S10 agreement?”

According to the ‘Gazette’ the survey, which opened last Monday, has already attracted 400 responses, with 300 in the first twenty-four hours. Robin Murray, association committee member and former vice-chair, said: “The survey shows the Crown prosecution fail, on a daily basis, to do what the law requires them to, which is to serve the evidence so the defendant knows the case against them.

“When these failings are brought to the attention of the courts time and again, the courts fail to hold the prosecution to account, which means either a waste of public money because cases are adjourned unnecessarily or, far more seriously, the defence are put under pressure to proceed without reasonable notice of recently served evidence.”

One anonymous respondent in the ‘Gazette’ said: “The very mechanism that exists to give victims justice not only fails to deliver that justice but re-victimises the vulnerable all over again…There are simply not enough CPS staff or Police to process and prepare cases properly but I believe there is also an obligation on the part of the Defence to request it and they are not always as assiduous as they could be with regard to this.”

Another respondent wrote: “That the Government neither says nor does anything about this speaks volumes concerning its attitude towards justice and the rule of law in the UK. It seems to aspire to standards that wouldn’t even be acceptable in a third world autocracy.”

One more damning comment in the ‘Gazette’: “The failure of the Crown to comply with their disclosure obligation is the norm. This leads to miscarriages of justice and defendants routinely acknowledge that the magistrates’ court is no place to get justice. This has now crept into the Crown court where the defence have to constantly fight to get disclosure… In nearly every single case I have at the moment, approximately 50, the Crown have failed to comply with their disclosure obligation and I’ve had to list the case for a mention hearing.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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