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Initial details of the prosecution case

Source of law and practice

1. Part 10 of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2014 (“The Rules”) contains the requirement for the prosecutor to serve initial details of the prosecution case (“initial details”) upon both the defendant and the court.  You must provide initial details by serving the same on the court officer as soon as practicable: and in any event, no later than the beginning of the day of the first hearing. Where a defendant requests those details, the prosecutor must serve them on them as soon as practicable; and in any event, no later than the beginning of the day of the first hearing. Where a defendant does not request those details, the prosecutor must make them available to them at, or before, the beginning of the day of the first day of the hearing.

2. The Rules state that Initial details of the prosecution case must include:

3. The Rules themselves currently allow some discretion as to the content of these initial details. However, the revised Rules were intended to give statutory effect to the principles of Criminal Justice Simple Speedy Summary (“CJSSS”). The primary intention underpinning CJSSS was to speed up the criminal justice system and one way of achieving this is by ensuring an appropriate plea can always be entered on the first hearing. The more information both the defendant and the court have at the first hearing, the more likely it is that this result will be achieved.

4. In January 2012 another initiative entitled “Stop delaying justice!” was introduced in the magistrates’ courts led by the judiciary. The aim is that all contested trials in the magistrates courts are fully case managed at the first hearing and disposed of at the second hearing.  The effect of this initiative is that the court will expect the parties in contested magistrates’ court cases to have completed the case management form and, at the first hearing, to agree which witnesses will be called at the subsequent trial.

5.  The court will also enquire about the issues in the case and make directions e.g. in relation to hearsay or bad character evidence. (See “The Hearing”)

6. In order to comply with this initiative, HSE policy is that witness statements should usually be served as part of the Initial Details of the prosecution case. This reflects what happens in Police/CPS cases (when a not guilty plea is anticipated key witness statements are provided by the CPS).

In the absence of a clear indication of a guilty plea, the prosecutor should assume that the allegations will be denied.

7. You should therefore serve all the evidence upon which you intend to rely, and which is available at the time of the first hearing, as part of the initial details. This would include witness statements, experts reports, copies of documentary exhibits and records of defendants interviews under PACE. There is no need to specifically type any hand-written statements at this stage if they are still legible once copied. Care does need to be taken to ensure that the reverse of any statement, containing contact details, is not inadvertently copied and served. Clearly there may be occasions when the defendant has made full admissions in a PACE interview and your case is very straightforward. In these cases it may be appropriate to serve just a summary of your evidence, but the majority of cases will usually require the service of all evidence on which we rely. Your decision must always be informed by the intention of the Criminal Procedure Rules to ensure that the court and the defendant have all the necessary information for progress to be made at the first hearing.

8. In contested cases in the magistrates’ court a trial date will now be set at the first hearing which means that you should have the availability of witnesses with you in Court unless you have a clear indication of a guilty plea.

9. Provision of the initial details is quite separate from the disclosure of unused material. Initial details only relates to information and material (in whatever form) on which the prosecution intend to rely. Information and material on which the prosecution do not intend to rely does not form part of the initial details and will not be disclosed at this stage (see Disclosure of unused material for investigations commenced on or after 4 April 2005).

10. In all cases you should still draft and serve a summary of your case on the defendant and the court. A useful guideline for writing a summary is to summarise the facts under the headings used when deciding the evidence by which the case will be proved. A thorough summary will assist in the production of a ‘Friskies Schedule’, incorporating the facts of the case and any aggravating, mitigating or other relevant factors (see the Friskies Schedules section).

11. When you serve initial details, you should also serve a Friskies Schedule on the defence and the court. It would be advantageous if you could serve the initial details, summary and Friskies Schedule at the same time as you serve the summons.

12. Please note there is no provision in the revised rules allowing you to withhold information because of fears of witness intimidation. However, there may be exceptional cases in which you could make an application for specific witness anonymity. If you feel you have identified such a case then you should seek advice from the Legal Advisers Office.

More than one defendant

13. Where more than one defendant is to be prosecuted at the same hearing in connection with the same incident(s) or event(s), it is preferable to serve an identical set of initial details to all parties, covering all alleged offences.

Editing of statements

14. Certain copy statements may be unsuitable for service and/or use as evidence without editing out parts of the statement.  For example, if you considered charging several offences when the statements were taken but decided not to proceed with all of them, the statement may contain irrelevant material. Whether or not such editing will be required at the stage of providing initial details of the prosecution case will depend on the particular circumstances of the case and the statement in question. In many cases, the summary may make clear the position without the need to formally edit the statement at this stage.

15. Editing of statements can:

16. All editing should be carried out by the prosecutor using copy statements only. All editing should be done by enclosing the offending passages in square brackets and ruling through them so that they can still be read. Original statements and exhibits should never be marked in any way.

17. A paragraph explaining that the prosecution will not rely on the bracketed passages should be included in any letter which accompanies the initial details. Alternatively a fresh statement can be obtained, and the earlier version served as unused material.

Additional evidence

The service of statements as part of the initial details of the prosecution case does not prevent the obtaining and service of additional evidence at a later stage in the proceedings if that becomes necessary. However, you should try to ensure that all key statements have been obtained prior to the first hearing and are served as part of the initial details.

Magistrates Court trial preparation form

18. If a not guilty plea is anticipated then a copy of a Magistrates Court trial preparation form (as amended in August 2014) (with Parts 1, 2 and 4 completed) should be served with the initial details of the prosecution case. Part 1 refers to contact details, Part 2  refers to case management information and Part 4 deals with witnesses.  

19. The aim is to “encourage and to assist effective pre-trial case management by the provision of a form which directs attention to the identification of what is, and what is not, in issue, so that the eventual trial may proceed efficiently and effectively”.

20. Before the first hearing or, if the court allows, during the first hearing, the defendant must complete Parts 1 2 and 4 of the form. The main purpose being to establish what is, and what is not, in dispute. This will include whether the defendant is willing to admit facts formally.

21. The form is also used to record the Courts directions for trial.

22. If a defendant enters an unanticipated not guilty plea the case management form will not have been prepared and served before the first hearing. In such a case, the court may require the defendant to complete Parts 1  3 and4, as far as possible, before calling the case on; and at the case management hearing may require the prosecutor to provide the information required so that the court can give directions for trial there and then.

A copy of the form and further guidance is available on the Ministry of Justice website.

Updated 2014-11-24