The Attorney General has vowed to “crack the whip” to eradicate problems with disclosure in courts after a flurry of cases collapsed when it emerged vital evidence had not been passed to defence lawyers.
Geoffrey Cox, appearing before the Commons Justice Committee, said he was “determined” to ensure the criminal justice system is not stained again and told MPs it was one of his “central priorities”.
Confidence in the criminal justice system was rocked after the revelations last year, and Mr Cox said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was working to ensure similar mistakes are not made in the future under the National Disclosure Improvement Plan.
I will crack the whip, because I am determined that we don’t see this blemish rise again to stain our criminal justice systemGeoffrey Cox
He said: “It is crucially a question of leadership and we are very lucky now to have leaders I think in the right places.
“And my role is to sit above this, make sure that pressure is maintained, make sure that momentum continues, and to ensure that as far as the Government effort, that is coordinated in the right places to help the directors and the police get it right.”
Asked about his level of oversight of the plan by Labour’s Ellie Reeves, Mr Cox replied: “I intend to hold to account each responsible individual, and I intend to ensure that things are getting done.
“It is to me one of the central priorities of the Attorney now. I do not have ministerial responsibility, and you’re absolutely right to put your finger on this problem, and for each element, I wish I did perhaps, but I don’t.
“So what I have to do is crack the whip and I will crack the whip, because I am determined that we don’t see this blemish rise again to stain our criminal justice system and to produce a dent in the confidence in what is otherwise something in which we should be enormously proud.”
The collapsed trial of Liam Allan, who was accused of rape, raised the profile of a string of similar sex cases, where charges were dropped when critical material emerged at the last minute.
The revelations prompted a review of every live rape and serious sexual assault prosecution in England and Wales, which found issues with the disclosure of unused material in 47 cases.
A Justice Committee report last year concluded the CPS may have underestimated the number of cases stopped because of disclosure errors by 90%.