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Sir Christopher Rose's Report Published into Ratcliffe-on-Soar cases

06/12/2011

Ratcliffe-on-Soar report finds that CPS did not deliberately withhold information in prosecution case

An independent inquiry into the Crown Prosecution Service's handling of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station protest cases has found that although there were individual failings, at no stage of the prosecution was there any deliberate, still less dishonest, withholding of information.

In July 2011, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, asked the retired Court of Appeal Judge and Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Sir Christopher Rose, to conduct an independent inquiry following concerns about the non-disclosure of material relating to the activities of an undercover police officer and suggestions that the CPS had suppressed evidence.

Sir Christopher has now reported his findings to the DPP and Mr Starmer has decided to publish the report in full.

Sir Christopher concluded that:

(1) The undercover officer's authorisations and the transcript of his audio recording were never effectively distributed between all relevantly interested police officers or to the CPS, so charging decisions were not made on an informed basis and it was inevitable that proper disclosure could not be made to the defence. 

(2) There could and should have been a meeting between the police and the CPS before charging decisions were made at which the sensitive material, particularly the undercover officer's authorisations and the content of his audio recording, could have been made clearly known to all present and their significance discussed.

(3) If there had been such a meeting, it is highly unlikely that anyone would have thought it in the public interest for charges to be brought.

(4) Proper disclosure was not made to the defence and no public interest immunity application to a judge was made or considered because of failures, over many months and at more than one level, by the police and the CPS.

(5) The failures were individual, not systemic and not due to any want of printed guidance. All involved were well aware, or should have been if relevant guidance had been consulted, of what they needed to do to comply with their obligations.

Sir Christopher also specifically found that "Nothing I have seen or heard suggests that, at any stage of this prosecution, there was deliberate, still less dishonest, withholding of information which the holder believed was disclosable". He also found that "The material before me does not show that Mr. Cunningham ever read a transcript of the recording or a Kennedy statement". He concludes, "I am satisfied that, until 5 January 2011, Mr Cunningham did not know the terms on which Kennedy was authorised to participate."

Sir Christopher made only one recommendation, for more explicit guidance to be included in the Prosecution Team Disclosure Manual, which the CPS will take forward.

Mr. Starmer said: "I welcome Sir Christopher's finding that at no stage of the prosecution was there any deliberate, still less dishonest, withholding of information. In particular, I welcome Sir Christopher's finding that the material does not show that the reviewing lawyer, Ian Cunningham, ever read a transcript of the recording made by the undercover officer, Mark Kennedy, or any statement made by him.

"However, what happened in this case cannot be allowed to happen again. It has to be seen as a watershed in the way cases involving undercover officers are dealt with.

"I have therefore written to Sir Hugh Orde, the President of ACPO, seeking his agreement to a police/CPS memorandum of understanding that makes it absolutely clear that, in any future cases, the full extent of any authorisation and activity of an undercover officer must be shared between the police and the CPS as soon as a criminal prosecution is contemplated.

"I take very seriously the findings of individual failings on the part of the CPS, including failures properly to comply with disclosure obligations, failure to ask questions of the police and failure to oversee the case effectively. I have therefore decided that the CPS disciplinary process should be started in relation to a number of the failings by the reviewing lawyer." 

Mr Starmer added: "Although Sir Christopher does not find any systemic failures, I am determined that there should be no further individual failings in future and I have therefore also decided that:

  • Specific training should be delivered to all senior lawyers in the CPS casework divisions and Complex Casework Units about the proper handling of cases involving undercover officers.
  • All Chief Crown Prosecutors and any staff who chair CPS case management panels should undergo the same training."

The DPP has discussed Sir Christopher's findings with the Attorney-General who has this morning laid a Written Ministerial Statement and placed copies of Sir Christopher's report in the libraries of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Ends

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. For media enquiries, call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
2. The report is available on the CPS Website www.cps.gov.uk

3. The Terms of Reference of Sir Christopher's inquiry were to examine and make findings in respect of the following matters:

  • Whether the CPS approach to charging in this case was right, bearing in mind the known existence of an undercover police officer in the operation.
  • Whether the CPS and prosecution counsel complied with their disclosure duties properly in relation to the known existence of an undercover police officer in this case.
  • Whether the CPS arrangements in place for handling the known existence of an undercover police officer, including arrangements between the police and the CPS, the CPS and counsel and the local prosecuting team and the national co-ordinator, were adequate and properly followed in this case.
  • Whether the CPS followed all relevant guidance and policy in relation to the known existence of an undercover police officer in this case.

4. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010. It can be seen at http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/core_quality_standards/index.html
5. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Group, Special Crime and Counter-Terrorism, and Organised Crime. From 1 September 2011, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) prosecution function will transfer to the CPS.  A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
6. In 2010 2011 the CPS employed around 7,745 people and prosecuted 957,881 cases with 116,898 of these in the Crown Court, and the remaining 840,983 in the magistrates' courts. Of those we prosecuted, 93,106 defendants were convicted in the Crown Court and 727,491 in the magistrates' courts. In total 86% of cases prosecuted resulted in a conviction. Further information can be found on our website: www.cps.gov.uk
7. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.  This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.  The Protocol is published on our website at: http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/agencies/mediaprotocol.html