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Post-conviction Disclosure

Volume 661: debated on Tuesday 4 June 2019

If material comes to light that, on the face of it, might cast doubt on the safety of a conviction, the police and prosecuting authorities should disclose it, and where it is alleged that such material may exist, they should co-operate in making further inquiries if there appears to be a real prospect that they will uncover something of real value. Failing that, the function of the independent Criminal Cases Review Commission is to investigate possible miscarriages of justice. Access to information about the cases they investigate is integral to their work, and they have substantial legal powers to secure the disclosure they require.

The Minister will know that I welcome part of what he said warmly, but as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on miscarriages of justice, I know that in order to challenge a conviction, access to pre-conviction material from the police and the prosecution is very valuable. Most advanced countries have a proper system that makes it much more possible to challenge an unsafe conviction. Can we have further movement on that?

The hon. Gentleman rightly highlights his extensive work in this area. It has been a pleasure to meet him on a number of occasions, and I am due to do so again. As I said, there are considerable statutory powers for the CCRC, but as he knows, the commission can refer only those cases it considers to meet the statutory criteria, and there are no plans currently to review that.

Does the Minister agree with me that forensic science is a major area where a lack of transparency is inhibiting the review of post-sentencing disclosure?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of forensic science in convictions —increasing the number of cases that go through court and result in convictions—and therefore of the role it plays in reviewing cases post-conviction. If he wishes to write to me with further details of specific issues in that context, I will be very happy to write back to him responding to those points.

Both the Charlie Taylor and the Lammy reviews recommended changes to our criminal disclosure system for young people. On each count, this Government decided that they knew better, leaving us with one of the most punitive approaches to youth justice in the western world. Now that the Government have lost their case in the Supreme Court, will they recognise that our current disclosure system for children is outdated, ineffective and cruel?

My shadow is dextrous in bringing in youth justice in the context of the post-conviction disclosure regime. She is quite right to highlight the Supreme Court case and the current regime, which is something we are looking at carefully.