House of Lords Library

Disclosure of Evidence in Criminal Proceedings

Published Friday, January 10, 2020

This House of Lords Library Briefing provides a chronology of recent discussions on the disclosure of evidence in criminal proceedings. It includes an overview of disclosure procedures, notable high profile cases, and recent developments in disclosure practices across the criminal justice system.

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Disclosure of evidence refers to the process by which someone charged with a criminal offence is provided copies of, or access to, material from the investigation that is capable of undermining the prosecution case and/or assisting their defence.

Disclosure has been the subject of scrutiny for over a decade. Several high-profile cases have put disclosure practices into the spotlight and led to reviews across the criminal justice system. Two such cases are R v Mouncher & Others [2011] and R v Allan [2017]. Following the collapsed trial of R v Mouncher & Others [2011], the Government commissioned a QC-led investigation. It also requested a joint inspection of police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) compliance with the disclosure of unused material provisions. The resulting reports, the Mouncher Investigation Report and Making it Fair, both published in July 2017, gave a total of 26 recommendations.

In December 2017, the collapsed trial of R v Allan [2017] prompted the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service London to conduct a joint review of the disclosure practices. The review recommendations were outlined in January 2018. Concurrent to this, the joint National Police Chiefs’ Council, College of Policing and Crown Prosecution Service’s national disclosure improvement plan sought to further implement the Making it Fair Report and Mouncher Investigation Report. It made a joint commitment to improving the way duties of disclosure were exercised. The national disclosure improvement plan, now in its second phase, has seen the implementation of key recommendations.

The House of Commons Justice Committee launched an inquiry into the disclosure of evidence in criminal cases in January 2018. The final report was published in July 2018. It provided recommendations for several partners across the criminal justice system. The Crown Prosecution Service and National Police Chiefs’ Council submitted a joint response to the Justice Committee in October 2018. Whilst the Justice Committee awaited a government response to the inquiry findings, the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, published the Review of the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Disclosure in the Criminal Justice System in November 2018. The review provided a plan of practical actions alongside the improvements being delivered by the national disclosure improvement plan.

The Government responded to the Justice Committee inquiry on 18 December 2018. This was a cross-government response that addressed Justice Committee recommendations made to the Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. The Government confirmed a joint commitment to delivering sustainable culture change and improvement.

Lords Library notes LLN-2020-0010

Author: Claire Brader

Topics: Courts, Criminal law, Legal profession, Police, Sexual offences

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