Attorney general echoes Law Society call for better engagement to avert disclosure failings

A pledge by the attorney general to take a look at the rules surrounding disclosure of evidence in the criminal justice system was today welcomed by the Law Society of England and Wales.

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: “Disclosure is fundamental to a fair trial - the very foundation of our system of criminal justice.

“We are pleased the review recommends a mandatory requirement on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to provide defence practitioners with full details as early as possible where a not guilty plea is anticipated.

“Greater compliance with the duty of disclosure much earlier in the process is key and we support the review’s call for this to be supported by better training and methods, and appropriate use of technology.”

Disclosure failures are symptomatic of a criminal justice system under significant strain. Solicitors are at the heart of the criminal justice system, defending, prosecuting, and upholding the rule of law. The lack of remuneration for reviewing unused material and for reviewing pages of prosecution evidence must be addressed.

Christina Blacklaws added: “The review acknowledges the current fee structure for police station attendance is not designed for a large amount of pre-charge work by the defence.

“Fair pay underpins a fair justice system, so we welcome the attorney general’s suggestion that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) should review how such work is remunerated if a more formal pre-charge engagement model is created, as well as the recommendation for the Criminal Justice Board to commission a working group to review legal aid payments.

“The CPS and the police also need to secure the proper resources to meet their disclosure obligations and prevent miscarriages of justice.

“The extent of the problem with disclosure failings has already been laid bare.

“We look forward to participating in the attorney general ‘disclosure summit’ to discuss the progress of the National Disclosure Improvement Plan and the new attorney general’s guidelines on disclosure.”

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