Disclosure Manual: Chapter 20 - Victim Communication and Liaison
Members of the prosecution team are instructed to refer to the CPS legal guidance on the Victim Communication and Liaison Scheme, which reflects obligations placed on the CPS (and other service providers) in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.
VCL letters do not usually come within the ambit of unused material covered by the CPIA and it is unlikely that the letters would contain any material/information which will satisfy either of the disclosure tests set out under the CPIA.
However, prosecutors should be mindful, as part of their duty of continuing review, of the need to keep disclosure issues under consideration, particularly where a letter generates a response from a victim or witness, either orally or in writing. Any such response must be communicated to the disclosure officer to include on the appropriate schedule and thereafter handled in accordance with the CPIA.
Of course, a victim may also reveal information that is relevant to the prosecution case. Where this occurs, the police should be asked to investigate and/or take a further statement as appropriate.
The contents of the VCL communication itself may also become relevant where the defence suggest to a victim (in cross-examination) that they have altered their evidence as a result of the explanation. In such circumstances, it may be necessary to disclose the communication (or written note of a conversation) to the defence – if only to show that there was nothing in the communication that could have caused the victim to alter their evidence.
A meeting held with the victim (or the victim's family) under the VCL scheme is not normally held until the case has been concluded although there will be occasions when meetings need to be held when proceedings are live. The prosecutor should tell those attending the meeting at the outset that he/she may be required to inform the defence of what was said during the meeting because of disclosure obligations and therefore notes will be taken. These should be agreed as far as possible and be included on the appropriate schedule in accordance with the CPIA. The fact of the meeting may be disclosable and the contents should be considered in accordance with the CPIA.
Where a victim is, or may potentially be, a witness in the case, a record must be kept of all contact with that person. The record of any contact between a prosecutor and a witness must be passed to the disclosure officer and scheduled accordingly. Any material arising out of the contact that assists or undermines must be disclosed to the defence.
Prosecutors are referred to the guidance on Speaking to Witnesses at Court and to the 'witness pack guidance' within the Operational Guidance. This is good practice in cases where there have been a number of statements and/or contacts with the witness and provides guidance to assist the parties during a complex case. This is collated from the used and the unused material to ensure that all material is in one place.