Disclosure in Criminal CasesDecember 4, 2018
Disclosure is the obligation on the Prosecution to disclose all documents which may undermine the prosecution or assist the defence. The Prosecutor remains under a duty to review disclosable documents throughout the lifetime of a criminal case. Setting out a defendants case in a defence case statement triggers further responsibilities upon the Crown in continuing their review as the DCS highlights issues in the case and the basis of the clients defence.
A recent report by the Attorney General has highlighted failings by the prosecution in its disclosure of crucial evidence. The review indicated that important documents in the course of a criminal case are not routinely being disclosed.
Highlighting the problem is the recent case of Liam Allen whose trial in relation to allegations of rape and sexual assault collapsed after police had initially failed to disclose material which undermined the prosecution’s case. The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox stated on the release of his report that “For far too long disclosure has been seen as an administrative add – on rather than a fundamental pillar of our Justice System. This ends now”.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC recognized the problem and stated “Rebuilding public confidence following the issues around disclosure is crucial…..”.
It is therefore important for any defence solicitor to be proactive in obtaining full disclosure particularly in paper heavy cases for those charged with offences of fraud, conspiracy to supply drugs and serious sexual offences as in many cases this can often assist in the preparation of a client’s defence and can ultimately lead to an acquittal.