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Disclosure Failure Across the Board.

(Posted on 02/03/18)

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Disclosure Failure Across the Board.

A BBC survey has found failure to disclose evidence to be encountered by nearly all criminal law practitioners (97% of 1,200 respondents).

The Law Society Gazette reported that more than half the lawyers (55%) encountered these problems every day or every week over the past year. The failures were evenly split between the CPS and police. Nearly eight in 10 said failures had delayed trial, more than eight in 10 said failures put the defence under unreasonable logistical or time pressure. Over half (56%) said failures caused a case to collapse and a third said failures resulted in 'possible wrongful conviction or miscarriage of justice'.

The Criminal Law Solicitors' Association, jointly responsible for the survey, together with the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association and the Criminal Bar Association, said the results would not surprise those who do regular criminal work but acknowledged that the findings will shock those 'who still maintain there isn't a problem and everything in the disclosure garden is rosy'.

'We hope we can persuade the government and judiciary to take urgent steps to tackle these ongoing breaches of the existing rules,’ the association added, ‘and certainly hope that once the dust has settled, we can work together with the relevant parties to reform the system so that we do not experience these very frustrating day-to-day issues with disclosure and so that the public can have confidence that the system is treating all parties fairly and securing justice for those involved.'

The Commons justice select committee has begun an inquiry into the disclosure of evidence in criminal cases. The Law Society wants to hear from solicitors about failures that have or could have led to miscarriages of justice. Case studies should be emailed to the Society by 9 March.

The practitioner groups' findings featured on File on 4, a current affairs programme, on BBC Radio 4.

BBC Radio 4's Law in Action programme also reported that the number of prosecutions in England and Wales that collapsed because of a failure by police or prosecutors to disclose evidence increased by 70% in the last two years.