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Detectives urge Police Minister Malthouse to act on disclosure rules

A move back to a system of 'agreed staged' disclosure is required say officers

Frustrated officers have appealed directly to Kit Malthouse, calling for him to intervene with the Attorney General over reforms to disclosure rules they say are costing valuable time and causing stress.

Greater Manchester Police Federation’s lead for detectives say evidence process changes have dramatically increased the amount of material they have to supply at an earlier – and often crucial stage of an investigation.

The Attorney General’s guidelines, introduced in December 2020, now require disclosure schedules and material presumed to be disclosable to prosecutors at the pre-charge stage.

But Tim Hanson, Deputy Secretary of Greater Manchester Police Federation, said this change is causing additional stress for officers who are already overworked, under resourced and struggling to keep up with demand.

He said: “We are being asked to do a lot of pre-emptive work before we actually get into the crux of the evidence. And that has a massive impact on demand.

“We are being asked to jump through so many hoops before we actually get the evidence assessed. It can be a huge waste of resources, particularly if a suspect admits to an offence or the CPS decides not to proceed,” he added.

Other officers are also concerned that the changes aren’t working.

A review by the Police Federation found 95% of detectives said the changes had increased the number of hours they spend on pre-charge file preparation, and 87% said the changes had decreased the efficacy of the criminal justice system.

Mr Hanson urged the Policing Minister – who is also part of the Ministry of Justice’s team – to get involved.

 “We want the Police Minister and MPs to have a look at this issue so that the voice of our members can be heard and there can be a move back towards our previous system of agreed staged disclosure,” he said. “The current directive issued by the DPP is a guidance document to the CPS however it’s been interpreted and enforced as though it is legislation.”

Some work is already under way that could reveal where specific problems are.

The Joint Operational Improvement Board, led by leaders from CPS, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing has been set up and tasked with looking at disclosure and case progression in rape and serious and sexual offences cases.

The Crown Prosecution Service has been implementing the changes that came from the Attorney General and is limited in what it can do other than support officers with the system it has been given.

The CPS argues the changes were brought in to reduce the number of cases being halted.

A CPS spokesperson said: “Good quality police case submissions have always been a necessity, but the latest Director’s Guidance asks that material is submitted at the right time, with the right content to allow timely charging decisions to be made so cases can progress quickly.  

“We are always seeking to improve how we deliver justice which is why we implemented the latest Attorney General guidelines. This asks that cases are fully investigated before a charging decision so there are fewer delays and fewer discontinued cases. We are continuing to work with police to embed these changes.”

But Mr Hanson said more needed to be done because the stress being generated was impacting on a role that is already difficult for force to recruit for.

He highlighted that 87% of investigators said the job had become more stressful as a result of the changes.

Mr Hanson added: “It has a negative effect on people not only coming to the police to make the allegations, but also in public confidence in the whole criminal justice system.”

The issue was raised by the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday reflecting concerns from campaigners against violent crime and charities supporting women’s safety.

The Home Office said work to help meet the new demands was under way.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Home Office is committed to working with the Crown Prosecution Service and policing partners to ensure that changes to disclosure practices improve the quality of investigations and ultimately outcomes for victims. Progress in embedding the new changes and their impact is being monitored closely by the Joint Operational Improvement Board."

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