What Are Defence Case Statements?

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What Are Defence Case Statements?

What Are Defence Case Statements and How Do They Work?

A defence case statement, also known as a defence statement, plays an important role within the UK criminal justice system. The document outlines the defence strategy to be used during trial and is provided to both the prosecution and the court in advance of trial. 

As a defendant, it is important to choose the right defence strategy in order to have the best chance of a successful outcome. It is also vital to meet all of the legal requirements of defence statements in order to avoid potential penalties or consequences. 

Here, we explore what this statement contains and explain everything that defendants need to know about how a defence statement works, and why it is important to get it right.

The importance of the defence statement in the disclosure process

In recent times, there has been a shift away from what was known as the 'keys to the warehouse' principle in terms of disclosure rights for defendants in criminal proceedings. This used to involve defence lawyers asking to see all the material that investigators collected during their investigation, no matter what the defence strategy for trial might be. 

Now, the accused must outline the points of difference between their own case and that presented by the prosecution. This includes identifying factual disputes and providing reasons why they challenge the prosecution's view. Furthermore, they should set out what facts and law they intend to use as part of their argument. All of this is in accordance with section 6A of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996.

What is a defence case statement?

A defence statement has three main purposes: 

  • To comply with the relevant legal requirements, thereby avoiding any sanction for non-compliance.
  • To trigger the disclosure of any unused material that may assist the defence or undermine the prosecution's case.
  • To direct investigators to any additional reasonable lines of enquiry not already covered during the investigation stage, whether they point to, or away from, the defendant. 

According to the Attorney General's Guidelines on Disclosure, "A fair trial does not require consideration of irrelevant material. It does not require irrelevant material to be obtained or reviewed. It should not involve spurious applications or arguments which aim to divert the trial process from examining the real issues before the court," (paragraph 3). 

As such, the defence case statement should "help to focus the attention of the prosecutor, court and co-defendants on the relevant issues in order to identify material which may meet the test for disclosure," (paragraph 123).

If your case is to be heard before a Crown Court, it is mandatory to submit a defence case statement. The case of R v Rochford [2010] EWCA Crim 1928 provided guidance as to legal obligations that apply to defence statements made under section 6A of the CPIA 1996

  • The obligation to file a defence statement is a statutory obligation on the accused.
  • The accused is not at any time required to either self-incriminate or breach any rights to legal professional privilege.
  • If the accused enters a plea of not guilty but does not advance any positive case, their legal adviser must explain the nature and extent of the statutory obligation and to advise them of the consequences of non-compliance.
  • The accused is not required to advance a positive case if they simply intend to put the prosecution to proof. However, they must say so in their defence statement. 

The phrase 'putting the prosecution to proof' means that you intend to say nothing in your defence and not advance a positive case. However, the prosecution must then prove their case to the criminal standard.  

If your case will be heard before the Magistrates' Court, a defence case statement is voluntary. However, it may benefit you to submit one - your solicitor will advise you on whether or not this is necessary.

What should defence statements include?

If you are accused of a crime or involved in criminal proceedings, you should always seek support from a solicitor at the earliest opportunity. They will discuss particular defences and help you to choose the best approach, then build your case and prepare your defence statement on your behalf. 

There are some legal requirements that determine what must be included in a defence case statement, which are as follows:

Nature of the defence

A defendant should indicate whether they intend to plead guilty or not guilty. In situations where pleading not guilty is chosen, they must declare what grounds are being deployed. For example, these can be that they did not commit any criminal act, acted in self-defence, or were coerced by threats into perpetrating an offence. (R v Tibbs [2000] 2 Cr App R 309; R v Wheeler [2000] EWCA Crim 3549).

The facts

When constructing a defence for trial, it is essential for any relevant facts to be outlined in the defence case statement. This will likely include reference to witness statements, specialist reports and other forms of evidence that validate or explain the defence to be advanced at trial. Additionally, the document should name any individuals who will be offering testimony at trial on behalf of the defence.

The points of law

This may involve arguing that some requirement in proving guilt has not been met, or that circumstances exist which make an action legal. A defendant may dispute that an essential element of their alleged offence has not been sufficiently established by the prosecution.

The issues in dispute

The statement should identify any issues that are in dispute between the prosecution and the defence. For example, the defence may dispute the identity of the defendant as the perpetrator of the offence, or the circumstances in which the offence took place.

Any other relevant information

The statement should include any other relevant information that the defence wants to bring to the attention of the court. This might include information about the defendant's character, or issues prompting an investigator into further reasonable lines of enquiry.

What if I don't intend to advance a positive case?

A defendant is entitled to put the prosecution to proof, and if you wish to put forward such a defence, you can submit a defence case statement that says the following: 

  • You do not admit the offence or relevant part of it.
  • You call on the prosecutor to prove the case, without advancing any alternative or positive case. 

In any such case, you should be warned that you run the risk of adverse comment and the drawing of adverse inferences (section 11, CPIA 1996).

What will the prosecution do with my defence statement?

The prosecutor will review a defence statement to establish whether it is adequate and will provide guidance to the investigators on action(s) to be taken. At this point, they may speak to the disclosure officer about: 

  • What material might need to be disclosed
  • Whether any further lines of enquiry need to be followed up - for example, investigating an alibi
  • Whether they need to interview an alibi witness
  • The re-review of any material they previously considered irrelevant, and whether there is more evidence to look for

Disclosure is extremely important, as it enables you to properly prepare for a court appearance and enables your solicitor to build the strongest possible defence for you. As such, you should work with a solicitor who understands defence disclosure, to ensure you provide all the necessary information in your defence statement; and prosecution disclosure, which means accessing the information they need to shore up your case.

What will happen if I don't submit a defence case statement or it is deemed 'deficient'?

The court or any other party may make such comment as appears appropriate if the accused does any of the following: 

  • Fails to provide a defence statement.
  • Fails to mention something in the defence statement that he later relies on at trial.
  • Gives an account at trial that is inconsistent with the content of his defence statement. 

(Section 11, CPIA 1996.)

The phrase 'such comment as appears appropriate' means that the judge or the prosecution may instruct the jury to take into account the accused's failure to advance a proper defence. Such comment is only permissible if leave has been given by the court (section 11(7)).

This means that by failing to provide a defence statement, or producing a statement that is deficient, the accused runs the risk of the jury drawing adverse inferences against them. This means that the jury may take this into account when making deliberations.

How can I make sure my defence statement is suitable?

Ultimately, the only way to ensure that you submit an appropriate defence case statement and avoid the potential legal consequences that can otherwise arise is to work with an expert solicitor. The criminal defence team at JMW Solicitors is extremely thorough in its preparation of defence statements and can ensure that you meet every legal requirement so as to avoid possible legal penalties. 

It is important to be prepared well in advance and to examine the defence from every angle. You cannot change your defence or rely on new information once the defence statement has been submitted without the risk of adverse inferences being drawn against you. As such, your case must be built with the utmost attention to detail in the first place to prevent this. 

When facing criminal prosecution, the development of both your defence strategy and the accompanying statement is of paramount importance. Building your case means understanding disclosure laws and preparing disclosable material, interviewing defence witnesses and following criminal procedure rules at all times, which means that it is vital to work with an expert solicitor who can ensure you maintain legal compliance at all times.


A defence case statement is an important document in the UK criminal justice system. It is designed to provide the prosecution and the court with advance notice of a defendant’s case and helps ensure that the trial is conducted fairly and efficiently. It ensures that the prosecution disclose relevant material to enable proper development of the defence to be deployed at trial. 

Defendants need to understand what a defence case statement can do for them and what they can do to assist in its production. Together with a comprehensive proof of evidence, the defence case statement is central to the effective running of a trial and to ensuring that you have the best possible chances of a successful outcome.

Talk to Us

If you need to speak to a criminal defence solicitor about a defence case statement, legal representation, or any other issue, contact JMW Solicitors today. Call us on 0345 872 6666 or use our online enquiry form to request a call back at your convenience.

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