Nearly 50 rape, sex assault cases halted after mass disclosure failings discovered by police, DPP

Nearly 50 rape, sex assault cases halted after mass disclosure failings discovered by police, DPP
Almost 50 rape and sexual assault cases have been halted after revelations that prosecutors failed to hand over evidence to defense lawyers. As a result, the Director of Public Prosecutions has been slammed by MPs.

DPP Alison Saunders attended the Commons Justice Committee on Tuesday, facing off with MPs who accused her of failing to take action within the prosecutor's service.

Saunders said the prosecution's failure to disclose evidence in sex crime cases – including a case that nearly saw an innocent man, Liam Allan, jailed on 12 counts of rape and sexual assault after falling victim to a vexatious ex-girlfriend – admitted that the problem was systemic and due to “cultural failings.”

She admitted that such failings had “been there for a long time,” but said that she has now “accepted… that [scrutiny of disclosure] has been frankly too late in the process. It is about doing this as early as possible.”

DPP Saunders was accused of failing to take adequate action by MPs on the Commons Justice Committee yesterday. Saunders hit back, telling the committee that she doesn’t “think it was inadequate.” She added: “I think there were lots of improvements.”

The Crown Prosecutors Service reviewed 3,637 cases across England and Wales that were live between January and mid-February. The CPS identified disclosure failings in 47 cases, all of which were halted. In five of those cases, issues with disclosure of evidence was the primary reason.

In the other 42 cases, there were additional reasons including communications data like text messages, emails, and social media being examined too late; a failure to get material from third parties such as medical or social services records; or new evidence emerging.

A total of 14 defendants were in custody when their cases were dropped due to the disclosure failings.

In response to questions from Chairman of the Committee Bob Neill, Saunders accepted that the DPP’s failings were upsetting. Neill said that “disclosure has been a blight for too long” and as a result of the disclosure failings, people like Liam Allan could be wrongfully jailed.

“I feel every single failure, it is not something that we want,” Saunders said, adding: “I believe that the initiatives we have put in place will make a difference.”

The initiatives in question will include training for all 3,000 prosecutors in England and Wales, speeding up the process so that disclosure takes place much sooner and is reviewed regularly. Disclosure “champions” will also be placed in all crown and magistrates’ courts.

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