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Disclosure work is paying off say CPS and NPCC leads

Disclosure, redaction and working with the CPS are getting better, says Director of Prosecutions Max Hill and Nick Ephgrave, Met ACC and NPCC disclosure lead.

Disclosure work is paying off say CPS and NPCC leads

Date - 21st July 2021
By - Max Hill & Nick Ephgrave
4 Comments 4 Comments}

Each and every one of us comes to work thinking about how we can achieve justice for victims and how to improve the service we provide to do that.

When the first National Disclosure Improvement Plan (NDIP) was launched three years ago following a series of high profile disclosure failings, we knew the only way we were going to get it right, improve our approach to investigations, and make lasting improvements was for the police and CPS to work closely together.

It is nothing less than the public would expect. Effective collaboration between police and prosecutors is fundamental to building strong cases that are fair to victims and suspects.

As we write this to mark the launch of NDIP III, we can wholeheartedly say that’s what we have done.

We chair the Joint Operational Improvement Board which was created to improve joint working in our shared priorities of disclosure, case progression and rape and serious and sexual offences and to drive up standards in the criminal justice system, alongside the College of Policing.

But this isn’t just about disclosure or improving casework management in sexual offence cases. It is about making changes which will impact on everything from fraud to knife crime.

In the last 12 months, thanks to the hard work of officers and prosecutors we have seen a continued reduction in cases which are failing for disclosure reasons. We anticipate further reductions as the changes brought in by the Attorney General’s guidelines take effect.

Your collective efforts in making sure files comply with the Director’s Guidance on Charging 6th edition – DG6 – are starting to pay off. We are seeing more files with the information and material needed first time around to review cases and make effective decisions.

It is absolutely recognised that the enhanced requirements inevitably mean more work at the outset, but the result is fewer cases failing or being delayed at a later stage, resulting in less chance of witness or victim attrition, greater fairness for suspects and more justice for victims. These outcomes can only improve the experience for all those involved in a case and help to build greater confidence in the criminal justice system. That is where we want to be.

But the findings in the most recent HMCPSI report on disclosure remind us that there remain areas where we need to do more.

Many of the elements of the next phase of NDIP III come as a result of feedback from frontline officers and prosecutors who are managing these challenges every day.

Responding to your experiences, we are focusing on the volume investigations and prosecutions that make up the vast proportion of work in the Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court.

At the heart of NDIP III are actions to improve the way we – prosecutors and the police - make decisions about our casework, in the way we communicate, the way we collaborate and how we share great ideas and innovation that help us to continually improve.

It is about focusing on what has worked in your forces and CPS areas, seeking the best practice and developing it nationally.

Improved data will play a huge role with insights and performance tools giving us a much better view of what is happening across investigations and prosecutions and how they link together.

The CPS has also made a change to its Case Management System which will allow us to see far more accurately when files are not ready and support constructive conversations about file quality and case progression. The new Director’s Guidance Charging Assessment supports this process and replaces the old National File Quality Assessment.

We are continually working to improve communication between investigators and prosecutors and NDIP III will push further into that area. We know where we get this right, effective relationships can drive improvements and see justice served. Where we get this wrong, cases can suffer leaving victims adrift.

One of the things we expect to see is greater use of video conferencing between investigators and prosecutors on suitable Magistrates’ and Crown Court cases. That will give the face-to-face communication that can really help speed up actions on a case.

We will also review current working practices which can result in multiple action plans being set by prosecutors without a decision to charge. Direct communication between prosecutors and investigators will be actively promoted at this critical stage in a case to focus action and activity where it is most needed.

Finally we are also making technical changes to clarify the important roles on redaction. Our guidance will launch on Monday 26 July and provide a high-level overview of the responsibilities of each organisation in relation to redaction, clear definitions of legal obligations, and an escalation process to support decision making in the event of challenge.

We know redaction is a challenging area as nuances of individual cases mean there always has to be a level of judgement involved. We acknowledge and are grateful for the significant effort that is being expended to adhere to the various redaction guidelines and hope that the recently introduced redaction tool is offering some mitigation.

In September, we will hold our first Disclosure Week which will be dedicated to sharing best practice and give disclosure champions the opportunity to share the great work that is going on across the country and showcase the activities we have planned under NDIP III.

While we look forward to hearing more about your disclosure successes later this year, we will continue to build on this and ensure that together we evolve and improve our work to deliver for victims of crime.

Max Hill QC is Director of Public Prosecutions and Nick Ephgrave is the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner and National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for criminal justice

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BS1392 - Sat, 24 July 2021

Endorsed by the NPCC lead..... I wonder when he last submitted an investigation file for prosecution, from initial investigation right through to Court decision?