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Disclosure Manual: Chapter 28 - Operational Reviews

Refreshed: 21 October 2021|Legal Guidance

In major investigations, regular reviews are conducted which might identify flaws in the investigation to date. Operational reviews may take place following the arrest phase of an operation and/or at the conclusion of court proceedings. The purpose of review at the investigative stage is to identify ways in which the investigation can be progressed. The purpose of ex post facto reviews is to identify lessons that can be learnt to the benefit of future operations. Whenever a review is conducted, a discussion of the operational tactics deployed might reveal shortcomings in an investigation.

It is important that those participating in an operational review should feel able to express their views frankly. They may feel inhibited if their views or comments are to be subject to disclosure. Views/comments made by individual officers at an operational review would not ordinarily be disclosable, although facts that informed those views/comments might be if they satisfy the disclosure test (subject to PII).

It is difficult to provide prescriptive guidance on how disclosure issues should be addressed, however, the following general principles should be applied:

  • a record made at an operational review in a case where a prosecution has resulted will almost invariably satisfy the CPIA Code of Practice's 'relevance' test and so fall to be considered for disclosure (even though it will rarely satisfy the disclosure test);
  • where shortcomings in an investigation have been identified in an operational review, this would not be disclosable per se unless the identified shortcomings had the capability to undermine the prosecution case or assist the defence case;
  • any such shortcomings will usually have generated some product which would satisfy the disclosure test. Disclosure of the product will ordinarily fulfil the prosecutor's disclosure obligations without recourse to disclosing the record of the operational review;
  • where this is not the case, it may be possible to reveal investigative shortcomings by way of formal admission e.g. by conceding that a particular line of investigation which might have produced material of assistance to the defence was not followed; and
  • where an operational review takes place after conviction and generates material that would satisfy the disclosure test (for instance, because it reveals reasonable lines of enquiry that were not pursued) this should be brought to the attention of the unit head or CCD specialist prosecutor.
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