Advanced Search

Chapter 3: Roles and Responsibilities

3.1. The Code of Practice requires the police to record and retain material obtained in a criminal investigation which may be relevant to the investigation. In particular:

  • all police officers have a responsibility to record and retain relevant material obtained or generated by them during the course of the investigation. Material may be photographed, video-recorded, captured digitally or otherwise retained in the form of a copy rather than the original, if the original is perishable, or the retention of a copy rather than the original is reasonable in all the circumstances
  • the officer in charge of the investigation has special responsibility to ensure that the duties under the Code of Practice are carried out by all those involved in the investigation, and for ensuring that all reasonable lines of enquiry are pursued, irrespective of whether the resultant evidence is more likely to assist the prosecution or the accused
  • the Code of Practice creates the roles of disclosure officer and deputy disclosure officer, with specific responsibilities for examining material, revealing it to the prosecutor, disclosing it to the accused where appropriate, and certifying to the prosecutor that action has been taken in accordance with the Code of Practice.
  • the disclosure officer is required to create schedules of relevant unused material retained during an investigation and submit them to the prosecutor together with certain categories of material
  • non-sensitive material should be described on form MG6C and sensitive material should be described on form MG6D.

3.2. The chief officer of police for each police force is responsible for putting in place arrangements to ensure that in every investigation the identity of the officer in charge of an investigation and that of the disclosure officer is recorded. It is his or her duty to ensure that disclosure officers and deputy disclosure officers have sufficient skills and authority, commensurate with the complexity of the investigation, to discharge their functions effectively.

3.3. An investigator, a disclosure officer and an officer in charge of an investigation perform different functions. The three roles may be performed by different people or by one person.

3.4. Where the three roles are undertaken by more than one person, close consultation between them will be essential to ensure compliance with the statutory duties imposed by the CPIA 1996 and the Code of Practice.

3.5. The officer in charge of the investigation is responsible for directing an investigation. This officer's responsibilities under the CPIA a1996 and the Code of Practice are to:

  • account for any general policies followed in the investigation
  • ensure that all reasonable steps are taken for the purposes of the investigation and, in particular, that all reasonable lines of enquiry are pursued
  • ensure that proper procedures are in place for recording and retention of material obtained in the course of the investigation
  • appoint the disclosure officer
  • ensure that where there is more than one disclosure officer, that one is appointed as the lead disclosure officer who is the focus for enquiries and who is responsible for ensuring that the investigators' disclosure obligations are complied with
  • ensure that an individual is not appointed as disclosure officer, or allowed to continue in that role, if that is likely to result in a conflict of interest, for instance, if the disclosure officer is the victim of the alleged crime which is the subject of the investigation. The advice of a more senior officer must always be sought if there is doubt as to whether a conflict of interest precludes an individual acting as disclosure officer. If thereafter the doubt remains, the advice of the prosecutor should be sought
  • ensure that tasks delegated to civilians employed by the police force or to other persons participating in the investigation under arrangements for joint investigations have been carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Practice
  • ensure that material which may be relevant to an investigation is retained and recorded in a durable and retrievable form
  • ensure that all retained material is either made available to the disclosure officer, or in exceptional circumstances revealed directly to the prosecutor
  • ensure that all practicable steps are taken to recover any material that was inspected and not retained, if as a result of developments in the case it later becomes relevant.

3.6. An investigator is any police officer or police support employee (PSE) involved in a criminal investigation. All such police officers or PSEs, including those who may not view themselves as investigators, have a responsibility for carrying out the duties imposed under the Code of Practice. All officers, in particular must retain material obtained in a criminal investigation which is either created or discovered during the investigation, and which may be relevant to the investigation.

3.7. The investigator must notify the disclosure officer of the existence and whereabouts of material that has been retained.

3.8. Officers and PSEs have a personal responsibility to reveal all relevant misconduct relating to them, using form MG6B.

3.9. The disclosure officer and any deputy disclosure officer have a statutory duty to discharge disclosure responsibilities throughout a criminal investigation, namely to:

  • examine, inspect, view or listen to all relevant material that has been retained by the investigator and that does not form part of the prosecution case
  • create schedules that fully describe the material
  • identify all material which satisfies the disclosure test using the MG6E
  • submit the schedules and copies of disclosable material to the prosecutor
  • at the same time, supply to the prosecutor a copy of material falling into any of the categories described in paragraph 7.3 of the Code of Practice and copies of all documents required to be routinely revealed and which have not previously been revealed to the prosecutor
  • consult with and allow the prosecutor to inspect the retained material
  • review the schedules and the retained material continually, particularly after the defence statement has been received, identify to the prosecutor material that satisfies the disclosure test using the MG6E and supply a copy of any such material not already provided
  • schedule and reveal to the prosecutor any relevant additional unused material pursuant to the continuing duty of disclosure
  • certify that all retained material has been revealed to the prosecutor in accordance with the Code of Practice
  • where the prosecutor requests the disclosure officer to disclose any material to the accused, give the accused a copy of the material or allow the accused to inspect it.

3.10. The disclosure officer may be a police officer or a civilian. In order to perform the duties under the Code of Practice properly, the disclosure officer will need to become fully familiar with the facts and background to the case. The investigator(s) and the officer in charge of the investigation (where these roles are performed by a different individual from the disclosure officer) must provide assistance to the disclosure officer in performing this function.

3.11. In some cases it will be desirable to appoint a disclosure officer at the outset of the investigation. In making this decision, the officer in charge of the investigation should have regard to the nature and seriousness of the case, the volume of material which may be obtained or created, and the likelihood of a committal or a not guilty plea. If not appointed at the start of an investigation, a disclosure officer must be appointed in sufficient time to be able to prepare the unused material schedules for inclusion in the full file.

3.12. Deputy disclosure officers can be appointed to examine parts of the material and reveal it to the prosecutor. For instance, where a police investigation has been intelligence led, there may be a deputy disclosure officer appointed just to deal with intelligence material which, by its very nature, is likely to be sensitive.

3.13. Where the prosecutor consults with the lead disclosure officer, for example, when he provides a copy of the defence statement, the lead disclosure officer should inform any deputy disclosure officer who has provided schedules to the prosecutor.

3.14. The officer in charge of an investigation may delegate certain tasks to civilians employed by the police such as SOCO and fingerprint officers. The officer in charge of an investigation must ensure that those tasks have been carried out in accordance with the Code of Practice.

Top of page