Prosecution and police chiefs have been urged to set up local forums as part of the next stage in efforts to improve disclosure and boost confidence in the criminal justice system.
Following a wave of negative publicity, the CPS and National Police Chiefs’ Council drafted a National Improvement Disclosure Plan in 2018 to improve performance and prevent failures.
Gregor McGill, director of legal services, and assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave, NPCC lead for criminal justice, have now asked chief crown prosecutors and chief constables to localise the national plan as part of ‘phase 2’ of the plan.
In a letter sent last week, McGill and Ephgrave said: ‘The last two years have seen much improvement in the way we approach disclosure – both as individual organisations and in partnership with each other and other criminal justice colleagues. This has been driven by the National Disclosure Improvement Plan.
‘Key to its success has been the establishment of a jointly led – police and CPS – national disclosure forum. This has been invaluable in identifying, understanding and addressing the risks and opportunities relating to disclosure at a national level. But for these improvements to transfer to operational practice in every investigation and prosecution, we need to have a local disclosure forum, led by a committed chief officer and chief prosecutor, in every force and CPS area.’
A list of ‘minimum expectations’, include membership, which should comprise deputy chief crown prosecutors, assistant chief constables, defence solicitors, HM Courts and Tribunals Service. Representatives from the judiciary and local bar should be included where possible. Local forums should try to meet quarterly or bi-monthly.
In a statement, McGill said: ‘Getting the disclosure process right is essential in helping us guarantee a fair trial and providing the justice system the public rightly deserve. No part of the system can do this alone and the forums are invaluable in identifying, understanding and addressing the risks and opportunities relating to disclosure. It is so important every part of the country comes to the table to drive these important changes, that’s why we are asking for the commitment of senior staff in every force and CPS area.’