Profession wants say on disclosure

THE BAR and the Law Society say they want to see safeguards built in to any new statutory scheme governing disclosure of evidence in criminal cases.

Joining forces in response to Home Secretary Michael Howard's consultation paper on disclosure, the two representative bodies say the prosecution should be required to draw up a schedule of its evidence and provide it to the defence.

One of their proposals is for the police to identify all unused material on a form signed and dated by the investigator. The form would spell out the disclosure duties of the investigator and state that it is a criminal offence to provide false or misleading information.

Robert Roscoe, chair of the Law Society's criminal law committee, calls Howard's proposals “misguided”.

He says the proposals “arise through police pressure and misconceptions held by the public” and claims the reforms will lead to miscarriages of justices.

James Goudie QC, chair of the Bar's law reform committee, says the prosecution should not be exposed to the temptation of not providing the defence with material which may prove the innocence of the defendant.

“We hope that our suggestion that prosecution and defence should define and clarify the issues in advance will reduce the time, effort and expense devoted to the question of disclosure, making trials more focused and efficient.”