Today’s Home Office stories include the Attorney General review on failings over disclosure, the Forced Marriage and FGM conference, and UK Border Force increasing patrols along the south coast after a rise in migrant crossings this week.
Routine failings over disclosure by police and prosecutors
All the main papers report that a review by the Attorney General has found that police and prosecutors caused great harm by routinely breaching their duty to disclose evidence in criminal trials.
Geoffrey Cox presented the report calling for a culture of “zero tolerance” in the Crown Prosecution Service and police forces over any failures to hand over relevant material obtained during investigations. Past failures have resulted in cases being pursued where evidence did not support them, and have caused “untold damage to those making allegations and those pursuing them”.
The Guardian reports that the review was commissioned after the collapse of some rape cases where material from phones was belatedly released, undermining confidence in the criminal justice system.
In what the Telegraph describes as a “devastating” review, the Attorney General suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) should be used to assist in the disclosure process, as the spread of digital technology has resulted in vast amounts of data that police struggle to investigate properly.
Policing Minister Nick Hurd said:
Disclosure of evidence is crucial for confidence in police and our criminal justice system.
Police leaders have recognised there needs to be a change in culture towards disclosure and I’m pleased to see they are already making strides in this area through the National Disclosure Improvement Plan.
The Home Office is also working with the police and partners across the criminal justice system to explore the analysis and sharing of digital evidence and the Government will convene a Tech Summit this spring to further help forces handle growing volumes of data.
Duty to report Forced Marriage
The Sun, Independent and Times report on the possibility of doctors, nurses and teachers being compelled to report suspected cases of forced marriage or face criminal charges. The proposals are laid out in the consultation that was launched yesterday at the Forced Marriage and FGM conference. The consultation seeks views on whether such measures should be introduced and to whom they should apply.
The Independent goes further to discuss who the proposed duty to report might apply to and what alternative sanctions are laid out in the consultation. The Home Secretary is quoted at the launch of the consultation describing forced marriage as “a hidden crime”. He adds: “Victims may stay silent, fearing isolation or worse from their family and/or community. That is why the role of frontline professionals in health, education and social care, who may come across signs of forced marriage is so crucial.”
More information on the Forced Marriage and FGM conference can be found on gov.uk
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:
Governments worldwide have a crucial role to play in bringing an end to what can only be described as medieval practices.
These are crimes which in my view are despicable, inhumane and uncivilised.
I’m clear that by working together, we can end these appalling crimes and build a safer world for our children – and more specifically – for our daughters.
Channel patrols stepped up after rise in migrant crossings
The Telegraph, Mail and Express report that UK Border Force has increased patrols along the south coast after an “unprecedented” surge in migrant vessels trying to reach the UK. Vessels have been redirected to the Channel after 48 migrants were rescued in five incidents over two days.
The Telegraph reports that spokesman for the French Maritime prefecture Lt Ingrid Parrot, suggests that attempted crossings were up this year due to recent good weather, and because “migrants are seeking to cross before Brexit.” He also suggested that smuggling rings have become more organised in the past two years.
Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke is quoted in the Telegraph and Express as saying: “The Home Office must act urgently to tackle this growing problem by boosting our borders’ budget. Meanwhile, the French urgently need to get a grip of the situation.”
A Home Office spokesperson said:
We are alert to the risk posed by people attempting to reach the UK illegally via small boats. This year we have increased the number of coastal patrol vessels and, in light of recent events, have stepped up deployments along the South-East coast.
We continue to work closely with law enforcement partners in the UK and overseas to tackle people smuggling at source.
Nobody should put their life at risk attempting to smuggle themselves into the UK across the Channel. Thankfully, this route to the UK remains relatively rare.