Justice secretary Kenneth Clarke has asked two senior judges to review sanctions for disclosure failures in criminal trials, to ‘mitigate the resource burden’ imposed by disclosure.
Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Treacy will consider whether current sanctions and judicial case management powers are adequate to secure compliance with disclosure duties, and whether there are options for strengthening them. The move follows an earlier year-long review, Disclosure in Criminal Proceedings, conducted by Gross and published in September 2011, which concluded that there is no ‘quick fix’ to the concerns.
Announcing the new review, Clarke said: ‘The continuing policy objective in this important area is to safeguard fair trials by ensuring the legal framework requires appropriate disclosure to the accused.’ But he said the ‘resource burden’ which the arrangements impose on the criminal justice system ‘cannot be ignored’.
Criminal Bar Association chair Max Hill QC said: ‘It is inappropriate for the justice secretary to speak of "ways to mitigate the resource burden", indeed it gives away the government agenda to seek to force lawyers to do even more work for no extra payment.’
Hill said: ‘The minister should be championing the criminal justice system, rather than trying yet again to sell it cheap.’ Richard Atkinson, chair of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, said: ‘It is important that financial considerations are not given undue weight.’