Disclosure guidelines revised

Unpopular Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) disclosure guidelines have been revised in a bid to reduce the workload for detectives.

The move has been welcomed by South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne who said the introduction of the DG6 rules last year had led to a growing crisis in policing with officers pushed to breaking point and justice for victims being delayed.

The guidelines were introduced by the Director of Public Prosecutions and required investigators to provide the CPS with a trial-ready prosecution before it makes a charging decision.

But detectives soon found themselves bogged down in paperwork which in some cases doubled the length of the investigations they were working on.

The Police Federation launched a campaign to simplify the DG6 guidance in August and has worked alongside the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) to  produce the revised Joint Principles for Redaction which has now been developed by the CPS.

Welcoming the revised guidelines, Steve said: “It soon became clear that the new guidelines were hampering detectives in their work and adding needless levels of bureaucracy to the charging procedures.

“Hopefully, the revisions to a flawed process will remove some of the additional pressure on our members and give them more time to ensure the victims of crime see justice done in a timely and effective measure.

“The Police Federation campaign, led by the National Detectives’ Forum, shows how we can achieve results when we work together.”

The revised principles are supported by legal advice from a King’s Counsel (KC) specialising in information law to ensure they’re legally robust and have been endorsed by the co-chairs of the Joint Operational Improvement Board (JOIB).

The main changes are:

• New Supporting Guidance to aid redaction decision-making, including how and when non-redaction can be justified on the grounds of disproportionality. To withstand any legal challenges, it’s important such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, with the decision documented and approved at inspector rank or above.

• Updated FAQs following feedback on common disputes – changing approaches to data minimisation in favour of pragmatism, including when to consider the redaction of occupations, dates of births, vehicle registration numbers, suspects not charged and names of potential witnesses from witness statements. Given the volume of data breaches documented for these categories. The Federation expects to see a significant reduction in the volume of redaction required following these changes.
Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF) chair Ben Hudson called for the immediate implementation of the revised guidance.

Ben, who is leading the Federation’s work on the issue, said: “It’s pertinent that the revised principles are rolled out swiftly by chief constables and the CPS to serve its purpose.

“We’re asking that meaningful and detailed training is provided at the force level to all our members to assist in understanding the material they need to redact as part of evidence disclosure even at the pre-charge stage.

“We also ask that detailed and legally specific training is delivered to inspectors to ensure they fully understand the requirements when signing off the need for non-redaction and explain their rationale as to why they consider it disproportionate.  

“We’ll continue to champion the cause of our members and highlight the impact of case file building on policing and justice delivery.

“We’ll carefully watch and consult with members across the country to see how much mitigation these joint principles bring to the huge task that redaction currently is for our members.

“It’s still our position that there’s an urgent need for amending the Data Protection Act and we’re working with partner agencies in this direction. We hope to formally engage with the Attorney General’s office in early 2023 to see how these concerns can be addressed.”