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R v Mouncher and Others (Disclosure Handling)

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 16 July 2013

On 26 January 2012, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, announced that he had asked Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Inspectorate (HMCPSI) to consider the way in which the prosecution team conducted the disclosure exercise in the case of R v. Mouncher and others, following the discontinuance of the trial on 1 December 2011. The HMCPSI’s independent review has examined and made findings on the following matters:

1. Whether the prosecution team (CPS and counsel) approached, prepared and managed disclosure in this case effectively, bearing in mind the history, size and complexity of the investigation and prosecution;

2. Whether the CPS and prosecuting counsel complied with their disclosure duties properly in relation to the extensive material generated in this case;

3. Whether the prosecution team CPS followed all relevant guidance and policy in relation to the disclosure in this case; and,

4. To make such recommendations as it feels appropriate in light of the examination and findings set out above, including, if appropriate, recommendations about CPS policy and/or guidance and CPS arrangements for handling of similar size and complexity cases.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has today published the findings of this review in full without any alteration or redaction and a copy has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The full review is also available online at

The review concludes that despite the determination and hard work of the prosecution team (CPS staff and counsel), the approach to disclosure did not consistently meet the necessary standards. It notes that this was a very large case of about a million pages yet importantly also highlights that a great deal of unused material was disclosed to the defence and the number of disclosure decisions questioned at court represented a very small proportion of the decisions made.

The significance of the failure to disclose notes of police and CPS contacts with key witnesses was substantial. Other errors were less significant and some criticisms of the prosecution were unwarranted. While many of the mistakes or oversights did not disadvantage the defence or were capable of correction—and corrected—during the trial, their cumulative effect enabled the defence to undermine the confidence in the disclosure process.

The review also found some errors of principle—in particular, the prosecution took too narrow an approach to the disclosure test. The narrow approach was a failure of case management, particularly the lack of supervision of disclosure counsel’s work.

Finally, the review concluded that there was no evidence that prosecutors or police disclosure officers made decisions for any improper reason. Some mistakes were made in applying guidance but these represented a very small proportion of all the disclosure decisions that were made and many were discovered and corrected as a result of quality assurance exercises. More detailed conclusions can be found within the report including evidence of good practice.

The review recommends that more explicit guidance be included in the Prosecution Team Disclosure Manual including meetings with victims and quality assurance exercises as well as emphasising early CPS engagement with the police and how to consider the merits of an apparent defence.

The review also recommends the prosecution should prepare a written summary of the disclosure processes to be adopted including the rationale for the parameters used when applying the disclosure tests as well as the treatment of secondary source and duplicate material. The summary can then be served on the defence and the court. Finally, recommendations are made regarding the development of searchable IT systems to assist handling of disclosure in large and complex cases.

The DPP accepts in their entirety the findings and recommendations set out in the review. In January 2012, the DPP also ordered a complete overhaul of the CPS approach to modernise disclosure in serious and complex cases and since 1 March 2013 a new regime has been in place. This was designed to complement and support the Disclosure Case Management initiative launched by the senior presiding judge, Lord Justice Gross, on 3 June this year,

HMCPSI worked alongside the IPCC on this matter and their review is also published today.