In November 2016 the Brighton office of the CPS received video interviews of 15 alleged child sex abuse victims. They were discovered to be lost around one month later and the staff involved did not tell management at the CPS until February 2017. The CPS office is in a shared building and the discs have never been found.
This is not the first time the CPS has been fined for failing to protect sensitive material. Two years ago the CPS was fined £200,000 for storing 43 video interviews relating to violent and sexual crimes on a laptop without protecting or encrypting the information. This came to light when the laptop was stolen in a burglary and it was revealed that the CPS had inadequate systems in place to protect video interviews, which were not routinely encrypted and usually kept in a studio flat in Manchester with no alarm and poor security.
These fines are tiny amounts compared to the CPS 2017-2018 annual expenditure, which was estimated to be in the region of £525 million. Rarer still are fines to the CPS for losing evidence which is important to the defence case. Following the collapse of Liam Allen’s rape trial at Croydon Crown Court as a result of the CPS failure to disclose mobile phone records which seriously undermined the Prosecution case, Mr Allen was issued with a simple apology.
The CPS has promised to review their handling of video interviews to ensure that they are handled properly in the future, and has suggested that they will eventually all be stored on their digital system to avoid loss of discs. The CPS strategy for keeping digital copies of the interviews protected is not yet clear.
Blog by Sophie Cohen, Solicitor