Westminster Legal Policy Forum

Conferences that are scheduled to take place before September will be conducted online.
The format will mirror physical conferences organised by the Forum with speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish.
The conferences will be chaired and there will be opportunities for delegate questions and comments.
We will be contacting all participants in advance of each conference with full information and guidance on how to take part.
There will be some exceptions where conferences will be postponed, for instance those that would largely involve key stakeholders in the NHS or emergency services.
All participants affected by this will be informed as soon as possible.
If you’d like to speak to us over the phone about any booking-related queries, please call one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +044 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244

Evidence gathering and prosecution rates in the criminal justice system - priorities for the Royal Commission, forensic science, witness statements and the processing of digital evidence

TO BE PUBLISHED October 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine the treatment and effective use of evidence in the criminal justice system.

Areas for discussion include:

  • the delivery of forensic science services, and
  • challenges arising from the growth of digital forms of evidence.

The agenda:

  • New evidence: prosecuting crime in 2020;
  • The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and Scotland’s prosecution model - how it works in practice;
  • The changing use of evidence in criminal cases - cross-examination, written statements, and improving crime-solving rates
  • The use of technology in evidence gathering and disclosure;
  • Improving the quality of forensic science in the criminal justice system; and
  • The increasing use of digital evidence - disclosure, innovation, and the secure processing of personal information.

Why this is particularly relevant now - the context:

It takes place with:

  • A Royal Commission on the criminal justice system, announced by the Government in December:
    • with the aim of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the system, and
    • which is likely to include examining prosecution models in other jurisdictions such as Scotland, where prosecutors have powers to direct police investigations into serious crimes.
  • Pressures brought by the increasing volumes of evidence:
    • particularly from digital sources, along with more demands for personal information such as access to phone records, and
    • findings that the number of electronic devices awaiting examination by police forces across England and Wales has not changed in the last year, and has resulted in delays to investigations.
  • Recent statistics showing the number of prosecutions in England and Wales reaching a record low success rate of 7.1%, with:
    • particular concerns including the limited number of rape allegations being prosecuted, and
    • reports that senior ministers are considering attempts to boost rape prosecutions through the use of AI systems, with the objective of:
      • reducing delays, and
      • protecting victims from privacy intrusions that result from investigators obtaining digital evidence.
  • Developments relating to the COVID-19 crisis with latest CPS guidance advising prosecutors to opt for alternatives to criminal charges for minor offences in order to alleviate pressures on courts.
  • The Ministry of Justice consultation on Assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases considering the protection of vulnerable witnesses;
  • Legal aid - including issues raised in the Lords Committee report on the impact of cuts and defendants being denied access to forensic testing and legal advice.
  • The first report by the Commercial Court Witness Evidence Working Group.
  • Recent launch of the Forensic Capability Network, established with the objective of addressing skills shortages and driving innovation in forensic science through the provision of:
    • advice services,
    • R&D programmes, and
    • new technologies for large-scale data processing to forensic specialists across the UK.

The discussion in detail:

  • Priorities for the Royal Commission on the criminal justice system;
  • Conviction rates - looking at concerns, and policy options for improving prosecution rates, with discussion expected on:
    • funding for police forces and the CPS and the impact of court closures on cases being solved,
    • possible changes to the charging system, and
    • options for addressing concerns about excessively personal questions.
  • Victims, witnesses and giving evidence - looking at support and a further range of current issues, developments and policy options in the areas of:
    • increasing protection of vulnerable witnesses, including:
      • access to guidance when giving evidence,
      • provision of greater emotional support throughout the prosecution process, and
      • CPS changes to the guidance aimed at increasing the usage of special measures to protect vulnerable witnesses, including giving evidence in private or recording an interview.
    • the Ministry of Justice consultation on assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases and how possible measure could be implemented, such as:
      • improvements to the identification of risk, and
      • elimination of cross-examination by users.
    • the updated Victims’ Code, which provides:
      • greater flexibility for victims over when a Victim Personal Statement can be made to the court, and
      • an automatic referral for eligible victims to the Victim Referral Scheme, replacing the previous opt-in system.
    • legal aid - and concerns over cuts and the implications for successful prosecutions and access to justice, with discussion on:
      • defendant access to forensic testing and legal advice,
      • increasing number of litigants in person and an absence of early legal advice.
    • the first report by the Commercial Court Witness Evidence Working Group, and the impact of potential reforms, looking at:
      • scrapping witness statements and moving to pre-trial depositions in the court, and
      • what this may mean for both court staff and users.
    • cross-examinations in court - with particular reference to domestic abuse cases - as Government considers banning cross-examinations of victims by defendants in court in its Domestic Abuse Bill and options for alternatives to this in proceedings
  • Provision of forensic science services - with a government commitment to giving the Forensic Science Regulator statutory powers and the creation of a Forensic Science Board - looking at:
    • recommendations raised in Parliamentary reports relating to the use of forensic evidence and the Regulator, with discussion expect on:
      • creation of a Forensic Science Board to determine a new strategy focusing on coordination and collaboration for stakeholders,
      • increasing the statutory remit of the Forensic Science Regulator, including enforcement and investigative powers,
      • establishment of a National Institute for Forensic Science that would oversee research and funding across the industry, and
      • findings from the recently published Forensic Science Regulator annual, including issues such as digital skills shortages.
    • priorities for the recently launched Forensic Capability Network, established with the objective of addressing skills shortages and driving innovation in forensic science through:
      • the provision of advice services,
      • R&D programmes, and
      • new technologies for large-scale data processing to forensic specialists across the UK.
  • Disclosure and the processing and use of digital evidence, with discussion expected on:
    • new developments in the use of innovative technology for prosecutions,
    • the roll-out of digital consent forms and calls for the creation of a strategy to deal with the rapid growth of digital evidence,
    • the role that technology will play in increasing the amount of digital evidence and personal information that can be gathered and the impact of this on:
      • evidential standards and the workload of prosecutors,
      • reducing delays and protecting victims from privacy intrusions that result from investigators obtaining digital evidence, and
      • personal freedoms and the number of requests for personal information in cases.
    • ensuring that proper training is afforded to practitioners and best practice is used in relation to the increasing use of digital materials and AI.

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

This one looks no different. Places have been reserved by officials from the Crown Prosecution ServiceHM Revenue & Customs; the Home Office and the National Audit Office.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Westminster Legal Policy Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates