07:03, November 15 230 0 theguardian.com

2018-11-15 07:03:18
CPS and police 'routinely failing' to disclose evidence

Prosecutors and police are routinely failing in their duties to disclose crucial evidence, leading to cases being pursued that should have been dropped, a report by the attorney general has found.

The review, presented by Geoffrey Cox, called for a “zero-tolerance” culture within the Crown Prosecution Service and police forces of any failures to hand over relevant material obtained during investigations.

The duty to record, retain and review material collected during the course of inquiries was not routinely being complied with by police and prosecutors, the review found.

The report was commissioned following the collapse of a series of rape cases at the end of last year after material from mobile phones was belatedly released.

Investigators have a duty to conduct a thorough investigation, manage all material appropriately and follow all reasonable lines of inquiry, the report said, whether they point towards or away from any suspect.

“At the least this caused costly delays for the justice system and at worst it meant that cases were being pursued which the evidence did not support,” it added. “The impact of these failings caused untold damage to those making allegations and those accused of them.”

Launching the review, Cox said: “For too long, disclosure has been seen as an administrative add-on rather than fundamental pillar of our justice system.

“This ends now. My review sets out practical recommendations and a clear plan of action to which I will hold the leaders of the criminal justice system to account for delivering in their respective areas.

“I am confident that the leaders of the police and prosecution now understand the need for change, and together we will make sure that public confidence in the disclosure system is restored.”

The policing minister, Nick Hurd, said: “Disclosure of evidence is crucial for confidence in police and our criminal justice system.

“Police leaders have recognised there needs to be a change in culture towards disclosure and I’m pleased to see they are already making strides in this area through the national disclosure improvement plan.

“The Home Office is also working with the police and partners across the criminal justice system to explore the analysis and sharing of digital evidence, and the government will convene a tech Ssmmit this spring to further help forces handle growing volumes of data.”

The spread of digital technology has resulted in vast quantities of data becoming available from mobile phones, computers CCTV and other sources in many more types of criminal investigations.