NI: PSNI-PPS collaboration necessary to address case file failings

Brendan McGuigan
Chief Inspector Brendan McGuigan

Greater collaboration between the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is necessary to address “significant failings” in the preparation of case files, Northern Ireland’s Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice has said.

Chief Inspector Brendan McGuigan has called for the immediate establishment of a joint Prosecution Team to address poor practice identified in a new report released today.

Mr McGuigan said: “With over 45,500 case files submitted by police officers to prosecutors in 2013-14, putting together a timely case file that is of sufficient quality to be considered for prosecution, and used to present evidence in court, is a fundamental strand of an efficient criminal justice system.

“When an incomplete file is submitted by the police because evidence has not been recorded or presented in a coherent way to meet the required standard, or problems arise when information is electronically transferred to prosecutors, it is the victims of crime and those people facing possible prosecution, who suffer as a result.

“Poor quality files lead to increased costs, court adjournments, avoidable delay and in the worst cases, prosecutions being discontinued, all of which weakens public confidence in the justice system.”

The report published by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) today found that one third of case files submitted in 2013-14 were either of an unsatisfactory or poor standard.

Inspectors also identified serious concerns around disclosure processes where information is shared with defence legal teams.

Mr McGuigan said: “A file review carried out as part of this inspection revealed that disclosure was dealt with satisfactorily by police in only 23% of Crown Court cases. This is unacceptable.

“Disclosure is an integral part of the criminal justice process and when statutory obligations are not met, it can lead to a number of potentially damaging outcomes including abuse of process arguments at trial and the acquittal of an accused person.”

He has proposed the establishment of a new central Disclosure Unit within the PSNI to “improve oversight in this area and address knowledge gaps around disclosure by enhancing the skills of police officers”.

Share icon
Share this article: