Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED January 16, 2003

The appellant was not entitled to full disclosure of local authority files, which had been available to the police. He was only entitled to disclosure of material relevant to the caseAppeal by the defendant ('H') against conviction with limited leave by a single judge and against sentence with leave of the full court. On 18 December 2000 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Crown Court before HH Judge Faulks and a jury H was convicted of 11 offences of indecent assault on seven different girls. H was sentenced to a total of six years' imprisonment. Between 1980 and 1984 H was employed as a senior assistant and later as a house master at a children's home. In 1997 an investigation was commenced following a complaint by a former resident that she had been abused whilst at the home. Investigating officers contacted other residents of the home by letter and by personal visits. Other complaints were made and H was charged. H denied the charges, his defence being that the evidence was fabricated. The prosecution's case was that H was often at the home when he should not have been. The investigation was part of a wider inquiry by the police into several other children's homes in the area. Local authorities gave the police access to files, including files from the home involved in the present proceedings, to enable them to identify which homes children had been in and at what time. H made an application for full disclosure of the local authority's files under the principle of equality of arms. In accordance with the Protocol on disclosure of 1998, the local authority assessed all the material and flagged up material relevant to the case. A public interest immunity ('PII') application in relation to the files was made. The judge ordered the material identified to be copied and disclosed. A further application for full disclosure was rejected; however, the judge stated that he would be happy to hear any application for disclosure of specific documents. H appealed on the grounds that: (i) the judge should have acceded to the application for a full disclosure of the local authority's files; (ii) the event happened 20 years ago and strong public immunity reasons for not disclosing all the files would have diminished with time; and (iii) the sentence should be reduced because of the anxiety caused to H by the delay in hearing the appeal.HELD: (1) H was not entitled to blanket disclosure of all the files. He was certainly not entitled to documents which were not relevant to the case. (2) There was nothing to suggest that the defence was not provided with all the relevant documents. Further applications after the trial had started could have been made and the fact no applications were made supported the court's view that H had all the documents he could have been expected to get. (3) The judge was clearly alert to the difficulties faced by any defendant in meeting allegations, especially allegations made a long time later. (4) PII did not fade with the passage of time. There was no reason to think material which was highly confidential then would not be so now. (5) The appeal was delayed for a variety of administrative reasons and it would not be appropriate to reduce the sentence in the present circumstances.Appeal against conviction and sentence dismissed.