An increasing number of the visitors to our website are reporting that they're experiencing difficulty obtaining the relevant information or evidence that they've requested be "disclosed". We're not surprised by this, because most of what goes on around the country is based on custom and practice and NOT the law. For example, in Devon one of our correspondents was told that "the police and CPS do not disclose any evidence relating to a speeding offence until the trial"; and take a look at our case file number 1 from Hampshire - how is the defendant supposed to prepare their defence under these circumstances? In "our case" the solicitor informed the driver that "the only way that you will be allowed to view the traffic video is at a police station in the presence of a police officer" - that particular traffic video has extracts published and is available from this website!
You mustn't be put off by their response to your request for disclosure of the relevant evidence, and we'd suggest the following course of action for those of you who're experiencing problems obtaining any information or evidence:
- Request that the CPS disclose ALL of the relevant evidence that you require NO LATER than seven working days prior to your trial, and we recommend that you fax or use Special Delivery for all your correspondence so that you have a receipt for its delivery. This link will take you to the CPS's code of practice for the disclosure of video evidence.
- You may be required to enter a plea of not guilty before you're provided with the traffic video, and this link will help you understand the legal position.
- If, when the date of the trial comes around, you haven't received the information, simply contact the "listings department" of the court and ask to speak to the person responsible for preparing the list of trials taking place on the relevant date. Politely point out to them that you haven't received the requested information and therefore you haven't been able to prepare your defence. It's our experience that the public servants at courts are both helpful and sympathetic, so ask them to adjourn your trial - but you MUST follow the conversation up with a faxed letter summarising your conversation and their agreement to the adjournment. This link has an example of such a letter.
- If the CPS continue NOT to provide you with the evidence, go to court, or ask your solicitor to go on your behalf, and get the case thrown out as "there isn't any evidence".
So, in summary, don't let them blind you with procedures and legal jargon; just politely "stick to your guns", and we promise you they'll find that nearly as difficult to cope with as they do our speed calculations!
As speeding is now such a serious offence we suggest that you correspond with the Chief Crown Prosecutor. The CPS website has the names and contact details for all the Chief Crown Prosecutors in England & Wales under "where is the CPS?".
It's a rule of law that any party (including the police) who wishes to rely on evidence at a Court hearing must disclose the content of that evidence, whether written statement, photographic evidence or other, to their opponent. In the case of evidence to be relied upon in respect of alleged breaches of the Road Traffic Offenders Act or Road Traffic Act such evidence must be disclosed not less than 7 days before the date of hearing. Any evidence not disclosed within this time period can't be relied upon at Court, and where the prosecution seek an adjournment of a hearing in order to serve their evidence they must seek the permission of the Court (not always given) and bear the costs of any such adjournment. Note though that in the event that the defendant pleads guilty to the offence as charged the police are under no obligation to disclose any evidence they may have - it's only if the defendant wishes to plead not guilty and a Court Hearing date is listed that the evidence must be disclosed in accordance with the rules.
If you'd like to quote the Act of Parliament that entitles you to material evidence please follow this link to the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996. The Important paragraph is 1(1)(a) - take a look.
The legal position in Scotland is quite different from the rest of the UK and this link has some information. Criminal procedures in Scotland are covered by the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.
The following is a quotation from the CPS website (this link will take you to the relevant section):
"The video film on which evidence is recorded of an incident is a document for the purposes of the Magistrates Court (Advance Information) Rules 1985. The Divisional Court in the case of R. -v- Calderdale Magistrates Court ex parte Donahue and Cutler 2001 Crim L.R. 141 has held that there is a duty on the Prosecution to disclose on request by the Defence a copy of any video recording forming part of the prosecution case prior to plea before venue being considered."