Before a criminal trial starts in the Crown Court, themust disclose to the defence any materials which they have not previously disclosed – regardless of whether it could help or hinder the prosecution’s case. Once this is done, there is a duty on the defence team under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (CPIA 1996) to submit a defence case statement to the prosecutor and the court.
There is no such duty on the defence in the magistrates’ court (although they may choose to do so); however, the accused must provide details of their witnesses.
Once the defence case statement is submitted, the prosecution and/or investigating officers may wish to make further enquiries based on the information given. This may in turn require the prosecution to make further disclosure to the defence if new material arises.
Subject to some exceptions, the time limit for service of the defence statement and the details of any defence witnesses is 14 days in the magistrates’ court and 28 days in the Crown Court, unless that period is extended by the court.
The aim of defence disclosure is to:
The defence case statement must be in writing, signed by the defendant or the defendant’s solicitor and outline:
Bare denials are not sufficient to comply with the above stated obligations. Therefore, a complete denial of the prosecution’s case or the evidence of their witnesses without any reasoning on the defendant’s side is insufficient (R v Bryant (2005)).
Alibi evidence aims to show that due to the presence of the accused at a particular place at a particular time they were not, or were unlikely to have been, at the time and place where the offence is alleged to have been committed.
If the defence statement discloses an alibi, particulars of alibi must be provided in the statement. Those include the name, address and date of birth of any alibi witness or as many of those details as are known to the accused at the time the statement is given. However, if those are unknown when the statement is made, information must be provided which might be of material assistance in identifying or finding the witness.
Where there is no defence statement, or it is considered inadequate, the prosecutor should write to the defence indicating that further disclosure may not take place or will be limited and invite them to specify or clarify the defence case. If the defence fails to respond, or refuses to clarify the defence case, the prosecutor can raise the issue at a pre-trial hearing and ask the court to give a statutory warning under s 6E(2) of CPIA 1996.
Problems may arise with a defence statement if the accused:
If inconsistencies arise between the defendant’s evidence in court and information provided in the defence case statement, the defendant may be cross-examined on this without leave of court.
If there are faults in the defence statement, the court, the prosecutor or another defendant may comment on that, and the court may draw such inferences as it thinks proper in deciding whether the defendant is guilty.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
When you submit your details, you'll be in safe hands. Our partners are National Accident Helpline (a brand of National Accident Law, a firm of personal injury solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority). They are the UK's leading personal injury service. Their friendly legal services advisers will call you to talk about your claim and give you free, no-obligation advice. National Accident Law may pay us a marketing fee for our services.
By submitting your personal data, you agree for your details to be sent to National Accident Law so they can contact you to discuss your claim.
If you win your case, your solicitor's success fee will be taken from the compensation you are awarded - up to a maximum of 25%. Your solicitor will discuss any fees before starting your case.