Hundreds of prosecutions collapse over failure to disclose evidence – report

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More than 900 criminal cases were dropped last year due to a failure by police or prosecutors to disclose evidence, it has been reported.

According to the BBC, this marked a 70% increase in the number of collapsed cases over the course of two years.

The corporation said figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that 916 people had charges dropped last year due to a failure to disclose evidence – up from 537 in 2014-15 and 732 the following year.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the number of dropped cases represented just 0.15% of the total number of prosecutions, but said there were still “systemic disclosure issues”.

Blackfriars Crown Court
The BBC figures show a 70% rise in the number of collapsed cases (PA)

The trial of Liam Allan, 22, was halted at Croydon Crown Court, while days later another prosecution collapsed against Isaac Itiary at Inner London Crown Court.

Angela Rafferty QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, told the BBC that barristers face “a daily struggle in respect of disclosure, delays and all the other disastrous consequences of a system that is openly described by MPs as at breaking point”.

A CPS spokesman said: “We prosecuted more than 588,000 defendants in 2016/17 and our conviction rate was 83%. The number of unsuccessful outcomes due to disclosure issues represents 0.15% of these prosecutions.

“That is still too many, however, and we are clear that there are systemic disclosure issues across the criminal justice system which will require a collective effort in order to bring about improvement.

“Getting this right is a priority, and along with the police and other criminal justice partners we are working to improve how we fulfil these vital disclosure obligations and ensure that cases which should not proceed are stopped as early as possible.

“Last week the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) chaired a seminar with senior figures from the police, judiciary and legal profession to discuss how this may be achieved. This was a constructive discussion that generated concrete proposals which we will be pursuing to encourage early, effective engagement between the police, prosecutors and defence.”

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