The implications of late disclosure

In the wake of recent reports of Prosecution failures to disclose relevant material on the defence, one of our our High Wycombe office successfully persuaded the Prosecution to discontinue a case following an abuse of process argument she raised, after crucial defence evidence was not served by the Prosecution.

The case concerned two allegations of assault and one allegation of cruelty to an animal.  On the day of trial, the prosecution began reading a witness statement which the defence had never had sight of; and which exhibited numerous 999 recordings, which had also not been served.

Having made further enquiries, the prosecution stated that in line with their disclosure duties, the evidence had been reviewed and was not disclosable to the defence and would therefore not be relied upon.

The trial was adjourned to a second day, when on that occasion, and despite having been previously advised that the disc did not contain anything of assistance, the prosecution sought to rely on this material.

Upon a review of this disc, it contained numerous 999 calls from witnesses who had not been spoken to by the police and who had given accounts consistent with the defendant’s account, potentially therefore providing vital evidence to support the defence case.  As such the trial had to be abandoned and was adjourned until a later date.

In the interim, we prepared an abuse of process argument, submitting that it would unfair in these circumstances to allow the trial to continue.  We submitted that owing to the late disclosure the defence had been denied the opportunity to trace those witnesses who may have assisted the defence (owing to the passage of time that had by this time passed.)

The prosecution discontinued the case as a result of our submissions, meaning all charges were dismissed against our client.

This is just one example of the importance of carefully considering all evidence received, and ensuring that the prosecution are complying with their obligations to disclose relevant material.  If you have been prosecuted, then having specialist legal advice can be invaluable to the outcome of your case.  If you wish to speak to one of our Magistrates Court teams about your case to find out more about how we could help you, please contact your nearest Reeds office.