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Fixing the rape trials disclosure fiasco

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rape trials, disclosure failures, CPS, Metropolitan police, review, recommendationsReview of rape cases has started.

The Metropolitan Police Service (‘MPS’ or ‘the Met’) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have published the findings of the joint review carried out into the disclosure failures in the case of R vs Allan, which was dropped at trial in December 2017.

The joint review focused on the disclosure process in this case and specifically the handling of material recovered from the complainant’s mobile telephone.

The disclosure process requires prosecutors to provide the defence with any material which could reasonably be considered capable of undermining the prosecution case or of assisting the case for the accused.

This process is designed to ensure that every defendant has a fair trial.

For more information about disclosure, click here.

It is clear that there was a failure, both by the Metropolitan Police Service and the CPS, to properly disclose all the relevant material in this case to the defence.

The review includes a number of recommendations for the Metropolitan Police Service and the CPS including:

to develop a joint CPS/Police Disclosure Improvement Plan reflecting local issues and national agreed priorities by February 2018;

a nationally agreed joint CPS/Police protocol and process for the examination of digital media in each case;

to provide disclosure training to all police officers;

to develop a key group of accredited police specialist disclosure experts in each borough;

to appoint Disclosure Champions in the CPS; and

to appoint a Metropolitan Police Disclosure lead at Chief Officer level and an Tactical Disclosure lead at Chief Superintendent/Superintendent level.

These sit alongside the recommendations set out in the National Disclosure Improvement Plan that was agreed by the CPS, National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing and published on 26 January 2018.

And since the publication of the Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) report ‘Making it fair’ in July last year, the CPS and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) have taken a number of steps to improve the way it deals with disclosure, including:

Improving the CPS digital case management system to make it easier to deal with evidential material;

Reviewing the police HOLMES computers system to ensure sensitive material is stored and disclosed properly;

Refreshing the CPS Disclosure Manual. An updated version to assist both the police and prosecutors in meeting their obligations will be published shortly; and

Establishing CPS disclosure champions to give advice and support in area such as training for prosecutors.

Following this case, the Metropolitan Police Service and the CPS immediately began a review of rape cases where someone had been charged and were progressing towards a trial.

The Metropolitan Police Service and the CPS then made the decision to review all active rape and sexual offence cases – this equates to 600 cases being examined.

As part of their commitment to ensure that procedures and disclosure has been complied with, 120 police officers have been seconded from across the Metropolitan Police Service to undertake this work.

Claire Lindley, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London South, said: “This case has highlighted some systemic and deep-rooted issues that have been apparent to those working in the criminal justice system for some time.

“The prosecutors involved in this case did not sufficiently challenge the police about digital material.

“That meant that it took longer than was necessary to drop the case against Mr Allan.

“For that, the CPS has offered an unreserved apology to him and his family which I delivered to him in person yesterday.

“It is vital that lessons are learned from this case and others which have come to light over recent weeks where disclosure obligations have not been met.

“It is incumbent on all parties in the criminal justice system to ensure that these issues are addressed, and we have been working with our partners since last summer on a range of measures designed to improve performance in this crucial area.

“The recommendations in today’s report sit alongside the concrete steps to improve disclosure nationally that were announced in last week’s joint police/CPS improvement plan.

“We continue to work with the Metropolitan Police to identify any individual cases of concern as a matter of urgency,” Lindley continued.

“Senior prosecutors are assessing all live rape and serious sexual assault cases to check they are satisfied that disclosure obligations have been met.

“It is right that we satisfy ourselves that decisions are being made as soon as they possibly can be.”

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