In October 2013, a new Protocol and Good Practice Model was published to provide guidance on disclosure of information in cases of alleged child abuse and linked criminal and care directions hearings. The protocol comes into force on 1 January 2014 and applies to cases involving criminal investigations into alleged child abuse (child victims who were aged 17 and under at the time of the alleged offending) and/or Family Court proceedings concerning a child (aged 17 and under).
The aims of the protocol are:
- to provide early notification to the local authority and to the Family Court that a criminal investigation has been commenced;
- to provide timely early notification to the local authority and to the Family Court of the details and timescale of criminal prosecution;
- to facilitate timely and consistent disclosure of information and documents from the police, and the CPS, into the Family Justice System;
- to provide notification to the police and the CPS of an application to the Family Court for an order for the disclosure of prosecution material into the Family Justice System;
- subject to the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (and relevant Practice Directions) the Criminal Procedure Rules 2013 and the common law duty of confidentiality, to facilitate timely and consistent disclosure of information and documents from the Family Justice System to the police and/or the CPS;
- to provide a timely expeditious process for the local authority to respond to a request from the police for material held by the local authority that would assist a criminal investigation.
- to provide for timely consultation between the CPS and the local authority where local authority material satisfies the test in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 for disclosure to the defence;
- to provide a streamlined and standard process for applications by the police and/or the CPS for the permission of the Family Court for disclosure of material relating to Family Court Proceedings; and
- to specify a procedure for linked directions hearings in concurrent criminal and care proceedings.
The protocol has been produced by the:
- Association of Chief Police Officers
- Association of Directors of Children Services
- Association of Independent Local Safeguarding Children Board Chairs
- Crown Prosecution Service
- Department for Education
- HM Courts & Tribunals Service
- Local Government Association
- President of the Family Division
- Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales
- Welsh Government
Click here to access the full protocol, along with an Executive Summary and a set of Frequently Asked Questions.