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26.11.18

Revised Code for Crown Prosecutors introduced

The Code for Crown Prosecutors has been revised as of October 2018 (‘the Code’) and is now in its eighth edition. The outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders unveiled amendments to the Code which she said were vital to ensure ‘defendants and complainants have trust in the criminal justice system and the public has confidence in the outcome of court cases.’

Coinciding with this announcement, on the 25 October 2018, The House of Commons, Home Affairs Committee published its report on Policing for the Future. This inquiry was launched further to an initial inquiry into policing which had been commenced in January 2017. It was stated that they had been able to ‘examine a range of issues in detail, painting an overall picture of a police service which still has great strengths, values and expertise, but which is struggling to deal with the fast-changing demands of the 21st century’.

All prosecutions which are bought by the Crown Prosecution Service (‘the CPS’) are governed by the Code, which sets out important guidance and principles which must be adhered to when determining whether a person is to be charged with a criminal offence.  There are two limbs to the test: the evidential test and public interest test.  In serious and urgent cases a threshold test is prescribed.

One of the key changes within the Code is revised guidelines on disclosure, which is also an area identified by the Home Affairs Committee as being an area where reforms are ‘clearly needed’.

Disclosure, and more importantly, failings in the disclosure of criminal evidence to defence lawyers, has been subject to scrutiny and wide press reporting since Liam Allan's trial collapsed because of the late disclosure of evidence. The DPP has also stated that the ‘explosion in digital evidence seen in recent years has bought real challenges for prosecutors’.

The Code now states that ‘Prosecutors must consider whether there is any material held by the police or material that may be available which could affect the decision to charge a suspect with any crime.’

This amendment is significant because it will require the CPS and the Police to engage at an early stage (i.e. pre-charge). In considering their disclosure obligations prior to charging an accused it will hopefully avoid the need (and the cost) in progressing to a trial for the case to then be dropped last moment because of disclosure failings.

 

At Brett Wilson LLP we conduct all manner of criminal defence work, from minor offences up to the most serious and complex trials. If you have concerns about the standards or fairness of a criminal prosecution, click here to find out how our crime team can assist.


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