England: Attorney General says new CPS head must fix disclosure system

Jeremy Wright QC
Jeremy Wright QC

The Crown Prosecution Service’s “appalling” failings have been a blight on England and Wales’ justice system for too long, Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC has said.

Mr Wright said the new head of the service would have to “get to grips” with the issue as a priority.

He told the Commons’ Justice Committee: “Nothing is more important in the criminal justice system than that principle. I will be as clear as I can be, that we have got to get to grips with this at a senior level. We have been behind the curve.”

Mr Wright was giving evidence to the committee at the end of an inquiry into disclosure failings, which have seen a number of high profile rape cases collapse.

The Attorney General said there was a cultural problem in that disclosure was seen as an administrative matter rather than something to be dealt with early on in the investigation process.

In response to the question whether the thought of innocent people being wrongly convicted kept him awake at night, Mr Wright said: “Yes, and it should, and to what extent we can sort out the system.”

New measures are now being introduced at the beginning and end of the investigation process to reduce mistakes and ensure there are safeguards.

The QC added: “There can never be an acceptable reason for not disclosing information that makes a trial a fair trial, a fair process.”

Victoria Prentis, Conservative MP for Banbury, asked why prosecutors and police were failing to do their jobs properly.

Mr Wright said: “Disclosure has been seen as an afterthought, a bit of procedure at the end.

“When investigators or prosecutors were short of time they did not do as they should. The answer is to make the cultural change.”