Failures in Disclosure
On 20 July the House of Commons Justice Select Committee published a report, following its inquiry into allegations of repeated “errors in the disclosure process” by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in England and Wales. The report makes interesting reading. The committee’s inquiry followed on reports in the press of a number of cases, the most high-profile of which was that of Liam Allan – which collapsed in December 2017.
Most of the publicity generated by this issue has centred on cases involving allegations of sexual assault and rape. What the Justice Select Committee has found, and reported, however, is that “disclosure errors happen in all types of cases, both complex cases in the Crown Court, and volume Magistrates’ Court cases covering not just rape cases but all crime types.”
At the risk of stating the obvious, this is a serious issue. As the then Attorney General told the committee, disclosure is a “fundamental question of fairness in criminal proceedings.” And when the Director of Public Prosecutions was asked whether people had been wrongly imprisoned as a result of disclosure failings, she replied “some people have been.” For some perspective on that admission, it should perhaps be examined in the context of an interview given to the BBC’s Newsnight by Lord Macdonald, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, on 5 June. His assessment was that the numbers wrongly imprisoned might well run into the thousands.
The full report by the Justice Select Committee can be found here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmjust/859/85904.htm#_idTextAnchor001