The relevant law relating to alibi notices is set out in sections 5 to 6E of the CPIA 1996.
Evidence in support of an alibi is defined in section 6A (3) of the CPIA 1996 as evidence tending to show that by reason of the presence of the Defendant at a particular place or, in a particular area at a particular time, she or he was not, or was unlikely to have been, at the place where the offence is alleged to have been committed at the time of its alleged commission.
The Defendant must, in the Defence statement, give the particulars of an alibi on which she or he intends to rely. This should include:
- The name, address and date of birth of any witness the Defendant believes is able to give evidence in support of the alibi, or as many of those details as are known when the statement is given.
- Any information in the Defendant’s possession, which might be of material assistance in identifying or finding such witness, where the details above are not known to the Defendant when the statement is given.
If the Defendant voluntarily serves a Defence statement in advance of a summary trial, the Defence statement must comply with the requirements concerning alibi evidence set out above in the section on Crown Court cases.
However, even if a Defence statement is not served in advance of a summary trial, the duty to notify the Court and the Prosecutor of any witnesses that the Defence intend to call at trial still applies - Section 6C CPIA 1996.
The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (Defence Disclosure Time Limits) Regulations 2011 specify time limits for disclosure by the defendant. The limits are 28 days for compulsory disclosure in Crown Court proceedings and 14 days for voluntary disclosure in Magistrates' Court proceedings, from the day on which the Prosecutor complies or purports to comply with the initial duty to disclose.
The statutory obligation to provide the details of the witness is triggered by the Defendant’s belief that the witness is able to assist. It is not necessary that the witness can give evidence or is willing to do so - Re Joseph Hill & Co, Solicitors  1 WLR 786.
The sanction for non-compliance is the risk of comment and adverse inferences, under section 11(5) of the CPIA 1996. Sanctions do not include the prohibition of such witnesses being called - R (Tinnion) v Reading Crown Court  R.T.R. 24, DC.
For guidance in respect of the defendant's duty of disclosure please see the Disclosure Manual, in particular those parts concerning evidence of alibi.
For offences where the investigation commenced before 1 April 1997, the old law applies. This is dealt with in Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Disclosure Manual.
As a matter of procedure, it is desirable for the Crown to investigate any potential alibi evidence in advance of the trial.
When a Defence statement containing particulars of an alibi is received, Prosecutors should:
- Check that the particulars of the alibi included in the statement are sufficient for police investigation. If not, Prosecutors should request further information from the Defence i.e. where, when and with whom .
- Forward the Defence statement to the police and request that they consider interviewing the witnesses and take statements.
- Request that the police check the witnesses for any previous convictions.
Prosecutors are reminded to refer to Interviewing witnesses for the other side in the legal guidance for further information.
The police will provide a report on their investigations of the alibi. A copy should be sent to the Prosecuting advocate. Prosecutors are reminded that standard disclosure principles apply to these reports.
If the police are unable to locate a witness at an address given in the Defence statement, the Defence should be notified and asked to supply any further information in their possession that might assist in tracing the witness.