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Disclosure Manual: Chapter 3 - Roles and Responsibilities

Refreshed: 21 October 2021|Legal Guidance

An officer in charge of an investigation (OIC), an investigator and a disclosure officer perform different functions. The three roles may be performed by different people or by one person. Where the three roles are undertaken by more than one person, close consultation between them will be essential to ensure compliance with the statutory duties imposed by the CPIA and the Code of Practice.

The Chief Officer of each police force is responsible for putting in place arrangements to ensure that in every investigation the identity of the officer in charge of an investigation and the disclosure officer is recorded. It is their duty to ensure that disclosure officers have sufficient skills and authority, commensurate with the complexity of the investigation, to discharge their functions effectively. The rulings from the Court of Appeal in DS and TS [2015] EWCA Crim 662 and Boardman [2015] EWCA Crim 175, reinforce the personal responsibility of the Chief Constable (or equivalent) as well as the Chief Crown Prosecutor, for ensuring that amongst other things, officers appointed to act as disclosure officers are trained and competent to fulfil this role and are appropriately supervised by the investigative authority.

The CPIA Code of Practice requires investigators to:

  • pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry, whether these point towards or away from the suspect; and
  • record and retain material obtained in a criminal investigation which may be relevant to the investigation.

The responsibilities of the OIC include ensuring that reasonable steps are taken for the purposes of the investigation and, in particular, that all reasonable lines of enquiry are pursued as well as to ensure that proper procedures are in place for recording and retention of material obtained in the course of the investigation. They must also;

  • appoint the disclosure officer;
  • ensure that where there is more than one disclosure officer, that one is appointed as the lead disclosure officer who is the focus for enquiries and who is responsible for ensuring that the investigators' disclosure obligations are complied with;
  • ensure that an individual is not appointed as disclosure officer, or allowed to continue in that role, if that is likely to result in a conflict of interest; for instance, if the disclosure officer is the victim of the alleged crime which is the subject of the investigation. The advice of a more senior officer must always be sought if there is doubt as to whether a conflict of interest precludes an individual acting as disclosure officer. If thereafter the doubt remains, the advice of the prosecutor should be sought;
  • ensure that tasks delegated to civilians employed by the police force or to other persons participating in the investigation under arrangements for joint investigations have been carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Practice;
  • ensure that material which may be relevant to an investigation is retained and recorded in a durable and retrievable form;
  • ensure that all retained material is either made available to the disclosure officer, or in exceptional circumstances revealed directly to the prosecutor; and
  • ensure that all practicable steps are taken to recover any material that was inspected and not retained, if as a result of developments in the case it later becomes relevant.

All police officers or Police Staff (PS) involved in the conduct of a criminal investigation have a responsibility for carrying out the duties imposed under the Code of Practice. All officers must retain material which is either created or discovered during the investigation, and which may be relevant to the investigation. The investigator must notify the disclosure officer of the existence and whereabouts of material that has been retained.

Officers and PSs have a personal responsibility to reveal all relevant misconduct relating to them, using form MG6B. (See also Chapter 18.)

The duties of the disclosure officer and any deputy disclosure officer include:

  • examining, inspecting, viewing, listening to, or searching all relevant material that has been retained by the investigator and does not form part of the prosecution case, and recording their reasons for using a particular approach in writing;
  • submitting schedules that fully describe the material and copies of disclosable material to the prosecutor;
  • ensuring that material presumed to meet the test for disclosure is placed on the schedules;
  • at the same time drawing the attention of the prosecutor to any material considered satisfies the disclosure test (using MG6E) explaining the reasons for that view, and supply to the prosecutor a copy of that material and falling into any of the categories described in paragraphs 7.3, 7.4 and 6.6 of the Code of Practice;
  • where cases are charged on the Full Code Test and it is anticipated that the defendant will plead not guilty, providing the schedules to the prosecutor at the same time as the case file is submitted or in other cases as soon as possible after a not guilty plea has either been indicated or entered;
  • consult with and allow the prosecutor to inspect the retained material not already copied to them, and provide copies where requested (unless too sensitive);
  • review the retained material continually and amend the schedules, particularly after the case against the accused has been determined, any advice by the prosecutor on likely relevance of material, the defence statement has been received or details of the issues in dispute have been recorded on the Preparation for Effective Trial or the PTPH forms, identify to the prosecutor material that satisfies the disclosure test using the MG6E and supply a copy of any such material not already provided;
  • schedule and reveal to the prosecutor any relevant additional unused material pursuant to the continuing duty of disclosure;
  • certify that all retained material has been revealed to the prosecutor in accordance with the Code of Practice; and
  • where the prosecutor requests the disclosure officer to disclose any material to the accused, give the accused a copy of the material or allow the accused to inspect it.

The disclosure officer may be a police officer or a civilian and will need to become fully familiar with the facts and background to the case. The investigator(s) and the OIC must provide assistance to the disclosure officer in performing this function.

In some cases, it will be desirable to appoint a disclosure officer at the outset of the investigation. In making this decision, the OIC should have regard to the nature and seriousness of the case, the volume of material which may be obtained or created, and the likely venue and plea. If not appointed at the start of an investigation, a disclosure officer must be appointed in sufficient time to be able to prepare the unused material schedules for inclusion in the full file.

Deputy disclosure officers can be appointed to examine parts of the material and reveal it to the prosecutor. For instance, where a police investigation has been intelligence led, there may be one appointed just to deal with intelligence material which, by its very nature, is likely to be sensitive.

Where the prosecutor consults with the lead disclosure officer, for example, when he provides a copy of the defence statement, the lead disclosure officer should inform any deputy disclosure officer who has provided schedules to the prosecutor.

The OIC may delegate certain tasks to civilians employed by the police such as fingerprint officers but must ensure that those tasks have been carried out in accordance with the Code of Practice.

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