To ask the Attorney General, what steps she is taking to help support police officers in (a) Leicestershire and (b) nationally with the delivery of the additional obligations for disclosure at the pre-charge stage under the 6th edition of the Director’s Guidance on Charging.
The current version of the Director’s Guidance on Charging (DG6) is the sixth version and reflects significant changes in the way that cases are investigated, charged, and prosecuted since the last edition was published in 2013. Those changes include those revisions made by Attorney General’s Guidelines on Disclosure 2020, and the revised Codes of Practice 2020 issued under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (CPIA).
The first annual review of the operation of the disclosure guidelines has just been completed and will be published imminently. That review involved close collaboration with policing, the CPS and others in the criminal justice system and has led to some important amendments to the guidelines which should aid front line policing, particularly in relation to the development of an annex on redaction. The new approach of the Guidelines gives clear guidance on only providing relevant information to the CPS, for example by cutting footage from BWV or only including relevant message chains not an entire phone image. In this way there is less to redact, thereby helping the burden felt by front line policing. Further, the new, dedicated, annex on redaction sets out in detail and with examples how to apply the relevance, necessity and proportionality requirements. It also gives investigators direction on how to consider where redaction would be disproportionate due to time, resourcing and by taking counter measures such as enhanced security on document they provide to the CPS.
The section on accessing Third Party Material (TPM) has also been amended to include requirements that clear, pre-existing and recorded reasons must be present for any TPM request. Not only must requests be necessary and proportionate, but the Guidelines breakdown the relevant considerations for weighing necessity and proportionality to direct investigators and prosecutors to consider each issue in detail. For example: officers are directed to ringfence information to preserve it but not access it until necessary, and to examine alternative methods for accessing the same information without intruding into complainant or witness privacy wherever possible. There is also now a clear requirement to give ongoing, comprehensible and detailed information to those people whose information is accessed during investigations, which will help alleviate victims’ concerns about disproportionate and excessive requests.
The requirements in DG6 will be updated to reflect the upcoming changes made to the Attorney General’s guidelines and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the College of Policing and the CPS are working together through a National Disclosure Improvement Plan (NDIP) Working Group to implement the Attorney General’s Guidelines on Disclosure. That group includes a representative from Leicestershire police. The NDIP group is accountable to the Joint Operational Improvement Board (JOIB), a national Board chaired by senior leaders from the CPS, National Police Chiefs' Council and College of Policing, created to drive up standards in the criminal justice system and improve joint working in areas including disclosure. The Board’s work is mirrored locally by Joint Operational Improvement Meetings at police force and local CPS Area level.