15:07, July 31 279 0 theguardian.com

2018-07-31 15:07:04
Judge urges CPS to expand review of disclosure failures

A judge has called on the Crown Prosecution Service to expand its review of disclosure failures after a man spent six months in prison accused of carrying out an acid attack only to be freed on the first day of his trial.

Anthony Brack, 51, would have faced up to 16 years in jail if convicted, but when the case eventually came to trial on Monday the prosecution offered no evidence at Liverpool crown court.

The judge, Steven Everett, criticised both the CPS and the police after evidence emerged belatedly showing the victim had a medical history of burning herself with bleach and CCTV footage undermined her account of events.

Everett said he was astonished that the medical evidence had not been seen earlier, adding: “On the face of it, it seriously undermined the case.”

The case, reported by the Liverpool Post, is the latest in a series of failures by the police and CPS to disclose crucial evidence to the defence ahead of trials.

Most of the previous high-profile cases involved rape or sexual assault charges that were dropped after data downloaded from mobile phones contradicted the victims’ accounts.

However, a number of other types of cases have collapsed recently, showing the severe strains on the criminal justice system chiefly due to the massive volumes of digital evidence now associated even with routine cases.

Everett told the court: “Disclosure is a major issue as we all know and has been for a little while following various acquittals to people charged with rape.

“I am beginning to have real concerns that what really happened was that there was a review for rape and sexual assault allegations and the review was limited to that.

“I don’t know if that is right, but if that is right then the review was seriously flawed … the CPS and police will have to look at other case notes where there are assaults – not just sexual assault.”

Suzanne Gower, the managing director of the Centre for Criminal Appeals, which investigates miscarriages of justice, said: “This case is a stark reminder that failures by police and prosecutors to turn over vital evidence are not limited to rape cases.”

A CPS spokesperson said: “We keep all cases under continual review. Following receipt of further information from the police at the start of the trial we concluded there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction and stopped the prosecution.

“We note the comments of the judge and will work with the police to review the handling of this case and any lessons which can be learned.”