England: Over 1,000 lawyers experienced disclosure failures in past year

Over a thousand criminal lawyers in England and Wales have experienced failures of disclosure in the past year, according to a BBC investigation.

The BBC conducted a survey in conjunction with the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA), the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA).

Of the 1,282 respondents, more than half said they saw disclosure failures on a daily or weekly basis, and nearly a third believed they had potentially led to wrongful convictions or miscarriages of justice.

It follows the launch of a review of all rape and sexual assault cases south of the border following a series of failures to disclose evidence.

CLSA chairperson Bill Waddington said the survey “kills the rumour of these problems only happening in the occasional big case that happens to reach the headlines as we’ve seen recently” and is actually “an every day, every week, every year problem”.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the BBC survey would have provided a “skewed view of what is happening” because the respondents would interpret “disclosure failing” differently.

Greg McGill, director of legal services for the CPS, said: “I do accept that in some cases we do probably have to improve the timeliness in which we deal with some disclosure.

“Disclosure is a problem facing the whole of the criminal justice system. It’s a criminal justice problem, and it requires a criminal justice system response.”