Case Summary


Citation 2001  EWCA  Crim  2251
Decision Date 05/10/2001
Scheme 2001 Scheme
Paragraph Number -
Keywords Procedure - Criminal procedure – Court of Appeal – Criminal Appeals Act 1968 -Power to order disclosure – Disclosure sought of material held by Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority – Disclosure refused – Public interest
Headnote Summary of decision The court declined to order disclosure or production of applications for compensation made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority by the complainants in a criminal case which was sought by their alleged assailant who had been convicted and was appealing that conviction. There was no evidential basis for thinking that their accounts would differ and there was a public interest in victims of crime being able to make applications for compensation without fear of them being pored over. Facts In an appeal by a Mr Strettle (“S”) against his criminal conviction he applied for disclosure of possible fresh evidence. Firstly, S sought material held by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (“the Authority”), relating to compensation claims made by two of the complainants in the case against him. S argued that the two complainants gave evidence that they were not interested in any compensation as a result of the proceedings but subsequently made applications for compensation to the Authority. S sought to know when the applications were made and this was divulged during oral argument. S further sought to inspect the Authority’s file to see whether they in any way showed whether the way that the complaints were first made to the police and repeated in court differed from that which was advanced to the Authority. The Authority produced the documents to the registrar on the express understanding that they would not be disclosed without an order of the court and the documents were read by the court. Secondly, S sought disclosure of the transcript of proceedings conducted in chambers at trial in respect of public interest immunity and certain particular documents from the Crown. Held, dismissing the application for disclosure: (1) The Court of Appeal’s powers in relation to ordering a non-party to produce documents arose from section 23 of the Criminal Appeals Act 1968. There were two hurdles for the applicant to overcome: (i) for a document to be produced the Court must think it necessary or expedient in the interests of justice; and (ii) any such document could only be produced if the production of that document appeared to the court necessary for the determination of the case. Before any application to inspect the Authority’s file could properly be made, an applicant had an evidential hurdle to overcome of showing that there was some basis for thinking that there was likely to be some distinction between the accounts given by the complainants. Nothing on the facts of this case gave rise to a suggestion of a distinction between accounts given by the complainants. To order that it be disclosed in the absence of any such evidence would simply be to authorise a fishing expedition. (2) There was a public interest reason why the Authority’s file should not be produced. It should be produced only if there was some very good reason, otherwise, the making of applications to the Authority may be hampered. Victims of crime should be properly compensated and should not feel in some way in making their applications that every word put down on paper would be pored over in the hope of finding some difference. (3) The court approved of the procedure whereby the court was shown the documents that the Authority held. The procedure served the interests of justice. Were there to be something exceptional in the documents, the court would have to consider whether those exceptional features required something further in the interests of justice. (4) The court directed that those parts of the transcript of discussions which took place in Chambers in the presence of S’s previous counsel ought to be copied and made available to S. (5) No further order was made for disclosure by the Crown, there being no objection to the disclosure sought by S. Parts of scheme and other legislation referred to in judgment: Criminal Appeals Act 1968, section 23 Representation: Mr M Barlow for Mr Strettle Mr S Mills for the Crown Miss K Steyn for the Authority Editor’s note [on current CICAP website]: Note this judgement pre-dates the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts
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