CPS disclosure 'improvements' are delaying investigations with victims pulling out claim police
POLICE officers claim they are "stuck behind desks" rather than responding to 999 calls or out on patrol due to huge paperwork increases brought about by CPS changes to improve evidence disclosure for trials. Investigations into serious crimes, including rapes, are also taking twice as long as they used to because of the disclosure improvement plan brought in after a number of high-profile sex offence cases collapsed from 2018 due to evidence that would have aided the defence being withheld or served too late.
The Police Federation is calling for an urgent review of the changes that began in January 2021 that mean officers have to prepare a "trial ready" evidence file before a suspect is charged.
It comes amid claims the process is delaying investigations by weeks or months and some victims have stopped cooperating. Police now have to disclose all the evidence in the case before a file is sent to the CPS, and make a series of redactions to comply with data protection, when this was previously done after a suspect was charged. The federation claims the changes have gone too far and have doubled the lengths of some investigations leading victims to lose faith. Ben Hudson, secretary of Suffolk Police Federation, (top image) said in about 25 per cent of cases the suspect would never be charged and of the 75 per cent that were, several would plead guilty, meaning the files were unnecessary.
He said: "There is a current crisis in policing as a result of changes to the CPS directors guidance on charging. "The front-load disclosure process has had a number of unintended consequences for officers and victims. "Under the previous system if officers submitted 100 files to the CPS around 75 would result in charges requiring a full file. "Now all 100 require a full file even though approximately 25 will not result in a charge. This represents a 33 per cent increase, not only in workload, but effort and ultimately to no avail." He said a survey of 6,000 detectives showed 45 per cent of them said more victims have stopped cooperating since the changes in January 2021. He said: "This is shocking and the reason why the changes must be urgently reviewed." The federation has released a video showing officers talking about the negative impact of the changes and the issue was raised at its annual conference this month Response sergeant Josh Ives said: "There is a general feeling the system is broken as we are not able to give the service we want to victims.
"We are not able to deal with 999 calls or go on proactive patrols because we are stuck behind desks completing administrative tasks." Isabelle Jenkins, (above) of Wiltshire Police CID, said: "The delays this is causing are absolutely ridiculous. In 2018/19 from the start of an investigation to the point of charge we were talking six to nine months for a rape. That has now doubled and my most recent rape investigation has taken me 12 month to get a charge. I have two colleagues who are now at 18 months. "It is not the investigation that's causing the delay, it's the administration. Is it fair to a victim of rape to wait 12 months to see if they will get justice?"
Backing the changes, Max Hill, Director of Public Prosecutions, (above) said police and the CPS must act as one team to bring offenders to justice fairly. He said the disclosure process should begin at the start of the investigation and be an ongoing part of it, not something done at the end. He said: "Not long ago the CPS was getting this wrong when it came to disclosure failures and cases were coming unstuck in court and we had to get that right, so, yes the system is front loaded now. Officers should use this process to work with us to aid the investigation."