Barra and George

Barra McGrory has been in post since 2011. Time enough , you might think, to get the basics right.

Let’s look at how his team is doing on disclosure.

Disclosure,  Dear Reader is an obligation placed on the prosecution to give to the defence any material [statements, forensics etc.] that might be considered capable of undermining the case for the prosecution or of assisting the case for the accused. In other words the prosecution cannot hide evidence which does not suit their case.

This month,  Criminal Justice Inspection NI published a report into the quality of police files.

It found that “disclosure was dealt with satisfactorily by police in only 23% of Crown Court cases. This is unacceptable”.

In his report Brendan McGuigan , Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice, listed the consequences of disclosure obligations not being followed. See para 3.41. Astonishingly, he failed to mention the most important risk of all, that an innocent man might be convicted.

Imagine that you are wrongly accused of shoplifting. Your defence is that you were not in the shop at the time, you were walking in the local  park. The police fail to disclose that they took a statement from a man who  recognised you , walking a dog.

You are convicted.

The issue of disclosure has featured in many  appeals and  in references by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. It is not new and it is not rocket science and the subsequent acquittals or quashings of conviction may only be the tip of the iceberg.

You might be tempted to say ‘ now that it has been highlighted I’m sure George and Barra will fix it’.

Well, in April 2013 the Inspector found that the PPS records of continuing disclosure to defence teams were “not good” and some compliances were “very poor”.

So what did Barra say about that?

He said ” I am confident that the PPS can rise to the challenges highlighted”.

Well Barra, as they say in Belfast has not “riz” at all. This despite publicly criticising PSNI files in March 2012 , only four months into the job, in an effort to divert attention away from his underachieving and dysfunctional Service.

The lesson?  Try not to be prosecuted in the Crown Court in Northern Ireland. It is a dangerous place for defendants.

All of this has received little coverage in a media obsessed with sensation.

More disturbingly, unless I have missed it ,the Criminal Bar Association [with justice  as its watchword],  has not commented on this limp  performance by Barra and George.

Barra would serve justice better by putting his head down and delivering a first class prosecution system, instead of sound bites.

Advertisements

One thought on “Barra and George

  1. The CBA had initially not been consulted on the issue of disclosure, only on the issue of timeliness. We requested an opportunity to be heard on the issue of disclosure and made detailed representations to the CJNI about serious concerns we had as to the lack of consistency and in many cases the compete failure of disclosure. The report has recently been received and echoes the concerns expressed by the CBA. Unfortunately we are also severely pre-occupied with our attempts to ensure that Crown Court cases are also properly prosecuted and defended by ensuring adequate levels of finding for experienced and diligent Counsel. Very often failures in disclosure are only discovered by either prosecuting or defence counsel chasing it down relentlessly. The CBA will certainly continue to pursue the question of adequate disclosure and agree that it is fundamental to a fair trial. Gavan Duffy QC.
    Chairman CBA

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s