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UK Police Are Trained to Hide Unfavorable Evidence in Court Cases – Report

A dossier obtained by the Center for Criminal Appeals charity outlines the failures of police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to disclose “vital evidence” to the defense in court cases, and even said that such practises are deliberate.

Police in at least one force in the UK have received training on how to hide material, including exculpatory evidence, to bolster their chances of a criminal conviction, according to the report.  

The dossier includes comments from 14 focus groups, in addition to a survey of a number of British prosecutors.

“In even quite serious cases, officers have admitted to deliberately withholding sensitive material from us and they frequently approach us only a week before trial. Officers are reluctant to investigate a defense or take statements that might assist the defense or undermine our case,” a prosecutor was quoted as saying in the dossier.

The dossier specified how some police officers used the MG6D list – which the defense does not have access to, due to the sensitive nature of the list’s material – to withhold key information and evidence.

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The National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Criminal Justice, Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave, said that training on disclosure doesn’t “endorse or encourage” the aforementioned practices, which prevent defendants from access to a fair trial.

"National training and guidance on disclosure does not in any way endorse or encourage the unnecessary withholding of any material relevant to a case. It is, however, right that in cases involving sensitive unused material, such as details of an informant, that this is not automatically shared with the defense,” Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave said via a statement. 

“This is entirely in line with legislation and national guidelines and is well understood by defense and prosecution alike,” the chief constable added.

He went on to say that investigators need more training and advice “so they have absolute clarity on the disclosure process.”

It’s unclear if additional measures and adjustments to the disclosure training program will be made in response to the recent findings.   

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