Making it fair - a joint inspection of the disclosure of unused material in volume Crown Court cases
Disclosure of unused material is a key component of the investigative and prosecution process. It should be considered at the point where a criminal investigation begins and be considered as the case progresses.
Every unused item that is retained by police, and considered relevant to an investigation, should be reviewed to see whether it is capable of undermining the prosecution or assisting the defence case. If either factor applies it must be disclosed to the defence.
Failure to carry out the process appropriately can result in miscarriages of justice and a loss of confidence in the criminal justice agencies.
Between January and March 2017, Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) carried out an inspection into the police and Crown Prosecution Service compliance with the disclosure of unused material provisions.
The inspection examined 146 Crown Court case files. These cases originated from seven police forces, both specialist and non-specialist. This examination was supported by focus groups, interviews, unannounced visits to Crown Courts and surveys to elicit feedback on the disclosure process. The results of these are set out in the report.
The forces involved were the Metropolitan Police Service, Greater Manchester Police, West Midlands Police, West Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Police, Staffordshire Police, and Lancashire Constabulary.