A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS), the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (BC), and all police agencies in British Columbia. The new MOU updates and clarifies the responsibilities of police and prosecutors for providing disclosure in criminal and regulatory offence proceedings.
Police and Crown prosecutors share a constitutional responsibility to disclose to the accused all material and information in their possession or control which relates to the charge and is not privileged or clearly irrelevant, whether or not the prosecution intends to introduce it into evidence, according to a BC Prosecution Service statement.
“The exploding use of social media and personal technology (including computers, video equipment, and smart phones), along with increasingly sophisticated police investigative techniques, has resulted in an exponential increase in the amount of information collected by police in the investigation of many offences. Modern electronic tools, systems and processes to manage this increasing amount of digital information are essential to ensure that police and Crown prosecutors can carry out their disclosure obligations fully and efficiently,” the BCPS noted.
“The key players in the BC criminal justice system have proactively come together to respond to the need for justice efficiency. The new MOU will streamline the disclosure process by standardizing information structures and information management practices. Once implemented, these standardized structures will assist BC police agencies by making the process of providing disclosure materials to prosecutors more consistent, efficient and responsive. For prosecution services, the standardized structure promotes consistency in information management practices throughout the prosecution and expedites the delivery of disclosure to the accused.”
As well as standardizing information formats and management processes and updating and clarifying the respective parties’ obligations, the new MOU also includes:
• guidelines for the provision of disclosure for both provincial and federal offences,
• agreement that all disclosure will be in electronic form, and
• an implementation plan supported by dedicated police and prosecution service resources.
The new MOU will be implemented in phases over several years. This approach will allow the signatories across the province to train and support their employees in adopting the standardized digital information structure and information management practices and incorporating them into their workflow.