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New DG6 guidance a 'step forward' on pre-charge disclosure

The Chair of the PFNDF, Ben Hudson, told Police Oracle that while the new guidance is a positive move, legislative change remains the ultimate aim.

Fresh disclosure guidance has been circulated to chief constables following a Police Federation campaign geared toward simplifying the current redaction guidelines.

The DG6 guidelines, introduced by the Attorney General (AG) in December 2020, require disclosure schedules and material presumed to be disclosable to be given to prosecutors at the pre-charge stage.

DG6 has long since been criticised by officers who argue the guidelines waste valuable time by creating onerous redaction responsibilities which officers must meet to comply with the Data Protection Act.

The government has also admitted that the guidelines have created "digital Tipp-Ex units" within forces. 

A review by Solicitor General Alex Chalk QC resulted in a number of changes coming into effect on July 25, including the introduction of a Redaction annex which allows the use of password protections and makes it clear that BWV can be clipped or cropped.

However, the Federation argued it failed to recommend anything that would immediately mitigate the impact of disclosure, prompting the launched of its #SimplifyDG6 campaign in August.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has since worked with the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF) to produce the revised Joint Principles for Redaction which were circulated on October 7.

The Chair of the PFNDF, Ben Hudson, told Police Oracle that the revisions made to DG6 represent a "step forward for our members".

“This absolutely provides our members with more guidance on redaction," he said, adding: “We want to continue working with the CPS and NPCC to see if there are any opportunities to further mitigate for our members."

New guidance to aid redaction decision-making, including how and when non-redaction can be justified on the grounds of disproportionality, features among the revisions circulated on October 7.

An updated set of FAQs has also been included following feedback on common disputes. 

The Suffolk Federation secretary stressed that, while the guidance is welcome, the ultimate aim remains to secure changes to the Data Protection Act which would create an exemption for the police.

He said: “If we can create a data sharing bubble between the police and charging partners, we will afford officers far more time to get away from police stations and computers and out into the public.”

Specific questions about DG6 have been included in the Federation's ongoing pay and morale survey.

With government engagement the next step, the aim is to use the information provided in responses to strengthen the case for legislative change. 

For now, the focus is on the roll-out. The Suffolk Fed secretary said: "We’re asking that meaningful and detailed training is provided at the force level to all our members to assist in understanding the material they need to redact as part of evidence disclosure even at the pre-charge stage."

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