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Criminal Justice Disclosure Practices

Volume 680: debated on Thursday 24 September 2020

I am committed to improving the disclosure process in criminal proceedings and upholding public trust in the criminal justice system. Following a public consultation during which I hosted several online engagement sessions with defence practitioners, prosecutors and professionals from the victims sector, I will shortly be publishing my revised guidelines on disclosure. Those will address the need for a culture change and provide up-to-date and clear guidance on how all parties in the criminal justice system can improve disclosure performance.

It is a hackneyed cliché that justice delayed is justice denied—denied for the victim, for witnesses and for the accused, many of whom may be innocent. Can my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that the leadership and the departmental focus is in place to ensure that disclosure—particularly electronic disclosure—is undertaken in full and in a timely manner? Is this being measured? If so, are the targets currently being met?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important point. There has been an unprecedented focus over the last few years on ensuring that investigators and prosecutors are properly equipped to deal with large volumes of electronic evidence. The proliferation in technology and digital devices has put pressure on the disclosure process and notably increased the resources required. That does present a challenge for our investigators and prosecutors. There is not a silver bullet that will solve it, but I can assure my hon. Friend that this issue is not being left to languish. The Crown Prosecution Service, in particular, is investing in tools and working closely with its policing colleagues to meet these challenges.