Federation welcomes changes to CPS disclosure guidelines

Changes to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) disclosure guidelines designed to lessen the workload of detectives have been welcomed by Dyfed Powys Police Federation.

The DG6 rules were introduced by the Director of Public Prosecutions last year and require investigators to provide the CPS with a trial-ready prosecution before it makes a charging decision.

But the new rules had a massive impact on detectives’ workload which led to a growing crisis in policing with officers pushed to breaking point and justice for victims being delayed.

The Police Federation launched a campaign to simplify the DG6 guidance in August and has worked alongside the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) to  produce the revised Joint Principles for Redaction which has now been developed by the CPS.

Dyfed Powys branch secretary Roger Webb welcomed the move but said there was still much work to be done.

“This will certainly come as a relief to colleagues but it is still far from perfect and I think the whole system is in dire need of reform,” he said.

“But for now we must concentrate on the changes that have been made and make sure all our members are fully trained so the revisions have their desired effect and ease the workload on our investigators.

“It always seemed obvious that operating under DG6 would become unsustainable so I am relieved that these changes are being introduced.

“But I think there is still a long way to go before the system is streamlined enough to ensure victims of crime get the justice they deserve in a timely and efficient manner.

“Our detectives are determined, diligent and incredibly talented but they have to be given the time, space and resources to do what they do best and get results.”

The revised principles are supported by legal advice from a King’s Counsel (KC) specialising in information law to ensure they’re legally robust and have been endorsed by the co-chairs of the Joint Operational Improvement Board (JOIB).

The main changes are:

• New Supporting Guidance to aid redaction decision-making, including how and when non-redaction can be justified on the grounds of disproportionality. To withstand any legal challenges, it’s important such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, with the decision documented and approved at inspector rank or above.

• Updated FAQs following feedback on common disputes – changing approaches to data minimisation in favour of pragmatism, including when to consider the redaction of occupations, dates of births, vehicle registration numbers, suspects not charged and names of potential witnesses from witness statements. Given the volume of data breaches documented for these categories. The Federation expects to see a significant reduction in the volume of redaction required following these changes.

Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF) chair Ben Hudson called for the immediate implementation of the revised guidance.

Ben, who is leading the Federation’s work on the issue, said: “It’s pertinent that the revised principles are rolled out swiftly by chief constables and the CPS to serve its purpose.

“We’re asking that meaningful and detailed training is provided at the force level to all our members to assist in understanding the material they need to redact as part of evidence disclosure even at the pre-charge stage.

“We also ask that detailed and legally specific training is delivered to inspectors to ensure they fully understand the requirements when signing off the need for non-redaction and explain their rationale as to why they consider it disproportionate.  

“We’ll continue to champion the cause of our members and highlight the impact of case file building on policing and justice delivery.

“We’ll carefully watch and consult with members across the country to see how much mitigation these joint principles bring to the huge task that redaction currently is for our members.

“It’s still our position that there’s an urgent need for amending the Data Protection Act and we’re working with partner agencies in this direction. We hope to formally engage with the Attorney General’s office in early 2023 to see how these concerns can be addressed.”

PFNDF deputy chair Jon Nott welcomed the review but warned officers needed full training on the revised guidance to ensure they were effective.

Jon said: “This review is much-needed and welcome and I hope it will go some way to easing the burden on members.

“We now need a comprehensive roll-out of training to ensure our members are right up to speed on the changes.

“We’ll continue to consult with our members to ensure the changes are having the desired impact and are easing the burden on them and their workload.”