18 May 2022
Suffolk Police Federation Secretary Ben Hudson led a discussion on the impact of new disclosure rules on members at Annual Conference 2022.
Hosting a panel of guests, including Met Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave QPM and Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC, Ben looked at the introduction of the new changes and posed the question ‘Is a full case file really required for CPS to decide whether to charge a suspect?’
Drawing from the PFEW Detective Forum Survey on the impact of the DG6, the session explored the impact of the changes to CPS guidelines and the burden that these changes have placed on the ability of detectives to deliver justice for victims of crime.
Ben said: “The introduction of this guidance has had a number of unintended consequences on officers, on victims of crime and on the police service as a whole. It’s an additional hidden tax on policing, at a time when budgets are being squeezed. This is a whole policing issue and it cannot be allowed to continue.”
Delegates were shown testimonies from detectives and civilian investigators, who noted the low morale across the country and the devastating impact on victims of crime who are waiting and hoping for justice. One officer said: “These changes are preventing us from doing all the fundamental things that the police service should be doing.”
Ben continued: “Previously, of 100 files submitted to the CPS for charging, 75 would have resulted in charge and then a full file would have been completed. Now, are producing full files for all of these 100 cases, even though approximately 25 per cent will not result in any outcome. It is a 33 per cent increase in workload and effort to no avail.
“While it’s clear that police officers are fully supportive of the need for full case files, it is unnecessary, time consuming and counterproductive to prepare trial ready files when offenders then plead guilty at the first hearing.”
The session reviewed figures from the recent Detectives Forum Survey, which found due to the new CPS guidance:
An expert review uncovered that the changes added an extra four hours of work to every case an officer is undertaking.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, who spent many years as a detective himself, spoke of his own experience of similar changes. He said: “I was a Detective Inspector when CPIA became active in 1998. I remember the shockwave that that sent through all of us involved in detective work at the time and back then we didn’t have the issues around digital data and storing huge amounts of digital information.”
He continued: “We don’t choose to make these changes, but it is the law. These changes have come about in relation to how we apply the law with an exponential increase in data available. These things coming together has created an enormous uplift in both demand and requirements.
“Officers should start thinking about disclosure from the outset of an investigation to make sure that the burden of their workload is spread out.
“There are changes coming, although yet to be agreed, that are designed to reduce the burden of redaction by introducing a concept of proportionality and to deal with the troublesome matter of third-party material – both issues that investigators find problematic.”
Director of Public Prosecutions for the Crown Prosecution Service Max Hill acknowledged the emotive video testimonials from officers, while emphasising the need to recognise that the CPS are working together with police to achieve justice.
“I can’t put it better than Josh in the video – it’s about locking up bad people and protecting victims of crime. On behalf of the CPS, we are with you on this – it’s what we do too. While we don’t risk life and limb as bravely as officers, we take cases to ensure bad people are locked up.
“The DG6 is not there to block you, but rather to help you with your investigation. Yes, the system is front loaded, but that is the way that the Attorney General has decided to take this and it is the law. When we drafted the DG6, it was to put the law into effect – we are not attempting to apply any higher standard than what the law requires.
“We know that the effort per case has gone up because of the changes and therefore we will be looking in the refreshed guidelines for anything more that they can give us in terms of step-by-step assistance for everyone. We are in this together.”
Ben summarised: “It is the law. We want to work with the National Police Chiefs Council and the College of Policing to understand how we can assist our colleagues to not find these changes a burden. We want to mitigate the impact on officers, and we must always ensure that we are not letting victims down.”