Not Saussure

September 12, 2006

Legal Aid, Disclosure and Justice

Filed under: civil liberties, UK — notsaussure @ 10:52 pm

Exhibit A: Lord Falconer addressing the Criminal Law Solicitors Association
in November 2005

We need to look closely at how the we manage trials.

For example, we should look at the exchange of material between prosecution and defence. A common cost driver in high cost cases is the large quantity of unused material passed from the prosecution to defence lawyers.

Blanket disclosure is not necessary. Prosecutors who err on the side of caution have a significant impact on trial lengths and legal aid costs.

Defence lawyers are legitimately incentivised to trawl though all the unused material instead of being able to concentrate on what actually assists the defendant or undermines the prosecution case.

In the new Guidelines for disclosure the Attorney General asserted that disclosure must not be “an open ended trawl of unused material.” A comprehensive Disclosure Manual has been produced for investigators and prosecutors with specific instructions for the management of these large-scale cases.

These measures should help reduce spiraling legal aid costs

Exhibit B: February 2006

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is referring the conviction for indecent assault of Warren Blackwell to the Court of Appeal. Mr Blackwell was convicted of indecent assault at Northampton Crown Court on 7 October 1999. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. He appealed against his conviction. On 22 March 2002, the Court of Appeal refused his application for leave to appeal. On the same day, the Court of Appeal increased his sentence from three to five years’ imprisonment following an application by the Attorney General.

Mr Blackwell applied to the Commission on 14 October 2002. In June 2004, the Commission asked the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police to appoint an Investigating Officer to assist the Commission in the review of this case. Detective Chief Inspector Steve Glover of West Midlands Police was appointed. He reported to the Commission in November 2005.

The Commission had decided to refer the conviction after considering issues including new evidence relating to the credibility of a key prosecution witness and the disclosure of material by the prosecution.

Exhibit C: BBC, today:

A married man who was jailed for five years for a violent sex attack has been cleared on appeal after it emerged that his alleged victim made it up.

Warren Blackwell, 36, of Woodford Halse, Northamptonshire, was convicted of indecently assaulting the woman after a New Year’s Eve Party in 1998.

The Appeal Court said the conviction was unsafe after hearing that the complainant had an “ability to lie” […]

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Tugendhat, sitting with Lady Justice Hallett and Mr Justice Silber, concluded his conviction was “unsafe”, after a report from the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The commission referred to new evidence which gave rise to a “very real doubt” over whether the complainant was a victim of any assault at all.

The court was told the complainant had made “strikingly similar allegations” about other sex attacks, had an “ability to lie” and a possible propensity to self harm.

The court recommended that the complainant’s details be shared with police forces across the country in case she tried to repeat the accusations.

Just for the avoidance of doubt, details of the complainant’s previous ‘strikingly similar allegations’ will have been, or should have been, among what Lord Falconer and his learned friends call the ‘unused material’. In the normal course of events, they should have been discovered by the CPS and disclosed to the defence. They weren’t.

This is why the defence like to trawl through ‘unused materal’. Just to be on the safe side.

PS For a further example of the necessity of full disclosure, in case the CPS has made a mistake (as does happen, now and again) take a look at what The Criminal Solicitor has to say; he has further and better particulars here, and an apology from the Attorney General here.

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