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Disclosure Manual: Chapter 19 – Operational debriefs

Refreshed: 21 October 2021|Legal Guidance

If information is relevant to an investigation, it may have to be disclosed, irrespective of the circumstances in which the information is given.

During an investigation, investigators may participate in operational debriefs (sometimes known as ‘hot debriefs’) where initial accounts will be provided about an investigation. Wherever possible, debriefings should not take place until after a pocketbook entry or a full witness statement has been completed by those participating. The nature of the record required depends on the type of the debriefing. Where a debriefing takes place to facilitate the preparation of a summary of events for the information of an incident commander (an immediate debriefing), a pocketbook record of information which is likely to be supplied to the incident commander may suffice. However, if a potential witness is required to recount his or her evidence in detail in a later and fuller debriefing, a full witness statement should be made beforehand.

The College of Policing advises as follows about the recording of debriefing:

“A full record of the debriefing, including the time, location and those present must be retained for auditing purposes. This record is material which is potentially disclosable under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996…
"If a senior investigating officer has been appointed, they may require all debriefing material to be indexed and retained in case of subsequent criminal proceedings or some other form of legal or judicial inquiry. A statement can be added to written material to clarify the purpose of the debriefing and to avoid potential litigation in the future."

If inconsistencies arise between accounts given before and during debriefing, they should be recorded and revealed to the prosecutor. The fact of a debriefing should be noted on form MG6 and records should be listed on form MG6C (or form MG6D if appropriate).

If there is an inconsistency between a witness's accounts before and during a debriefing, the disclosure officer should record it on the MG6E and copies of the record should be given to the prosecutor.

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