The legal profession's representative bodies have cautiously welcomed the attorney general's review of disclosure in the criminal justice system.
Attorney general Geoffrey Cox QC MP pledged to hold criminal justice chiefs to account if they fail to follow up on the recommendations made in his 78-page review of the efficiency and effectiveness of disclosure, which was published yesterday.
The Law Society welcomed the review's recommendation of a mandatory requirement on the Crown Prosecution Service to provide defence practitioners with full contact details as early as possible where a not guilty plea is expected. Christina Blacklaws, Society president, said: 'Greater compliance with the duty of disclosure much earlier in the process is key and we support the review’s call for this to be supported by better training and methods, and appropriate use of technology.'
Chancery Lane says the lack of remuneration for reviewing unused material and pages of prosecution evidence must be addressed.
Blacklaws said: 'The review acknowledges the current fee structure for police station attendance is not designed for a large amount of pre-charge work by the defence. Fair pay underpins a fair justice system so we welcome the attorney general’s suggestion that the Ministry of Justice should review how such work is remunerated if a more formal pre-charge engagement model is created, as well as the recommendation for the Criminal Justice Board to commission a working group to review legal aid payments.'
Although the review recognises that changes must be made to the criminal legal aid fee scheme to ensure effective early engagement and preparation, the Bar Council says this will require the CPS to be funded properly and highlights the absence of any such recommendation.
Bar Council chair Andrew Walker QC said he and his colleagues will continue to 'press hard' for the urgent introduction of a proper fee scheme for reviewing material: 'But recommendations about fee changes will amount to little without a commitment from the Treasury ensure adequate funding for our criminal justice system.'