Apr 4, 2012
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is today publishing its report following an independent investigation into the alleged failure by Nottinghamshire Police to disclose relevant material to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) prior to the collapse of a trial of six environmental protestors.
Six protestors had allegedly conspired to disable Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire and a trial had been due to start at Nottingham Crown Court in January last year.
The IPCC has found there were collective failings by a number of relevant parties to ensure proper disclosure in this case but that the actions of individual police officers and members of police staff did not amount to misconduct. Whilst it would appear that, on the balance of probabilities, the CPS lawyer in charge did have knowledge of the evidential products generated by an undercover police officer, there was a failing by the police officers and police staff members involved to disclose them appropriately on relevant schedules.
The IPCC’s specific remit was to examine the actions of Nottinghamshire Police officers in terms of their duty to disclose relevant information to the CPS in this case.
IPCC Commissioner, Len Jackson, said: “Our investigation has shown that the sharing and recording of sensitive information, initially between the various officers involved and then with the CPS, was not well handled. In particular, where the use of an undercover officer has been authorised, the police need to be meticulous in their handling and dissemination of any evidential material and in ensuring that liaison with the CPS is well documented. Whilst there were some weaknesses in the manner in which Nottinghamshire police officers and staff carried out their disclosure duties in this case it is our view that none of their actions amount to misconduct.
“We believe there is some learning from this case on all sides and we have discussed our report with Nottinghamshire Police and with ACPO. We note the recent findings of Sir Christopher Rose’s report into the CPS handling of the case; that there were individual failings but no deliberate or dishonest withholding of information. I endorse the DPP’s desire to see a memorandum of understanding between the police and CPS to guide their liaison in any such future cases.”
The IPCC investigation centred on the police handling of a statement from an undercover police officer and a transcript from an audio recording device used by the officer during Operation Aeroscope - the police operation targeting planned criminality at the power station. Responsibility for initially disclosing sensitive material produced by the undercover officer and expertise in its evidential use lay with the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). The investigation found no evidence of a thorough explanation by NPOIU officers as part of its process of handing over the transcript to Nottinghamshire Police.
Nottinghamshire Police officers have stated that they met with the lead CPS lawyer in May 2009 and provided him with the transcript and that this document was further discussed with the same lawyer in September of that year. A number of Nottinghamshire Police officers and a force civilian investigator state that they discussed the evidential products with the lead CPS lawyer at various points throughout the investigation. Whilst none of the officers adequately recorded the details of any of these meetings the IPCC investigation found, on the balance of probabilities, that the lead CPS lawyer had, at the very least, been told about the products generated by the undercover officer and had been given opportunities to read the relevant documents prior to January 2011.
A civilian investigator with Nottinghamshire Police was inadequately skilled in dealing with sensitive information and intelligence within covert investigations and, as a result of making an incorrect assumption about the transcript failed to record it appropriately on the relevant disclosure schedule. The lead CPS lawyer accepts signing off disclosure schedules in the case without having read them.
Notes to Editors
The full IPCC independent investigation report ‘Ratcliffe-on-Soar’ Power Station (Operation Aeroscope) Disclosure is published on the IPCC website here
For media enquiries please contact the IPCC press office on 0207-166-3239
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