CPS ‘is under pressure to prosecute MORE domestic violence cases after two watchdogs said there was “room for improvement” in the way they are handled’
- Presenter Caroline Flack was found dead at her home in London on Saturday
- Last year a court heard she had hit her boyfriend Lewis Burton with a lamp
- CPS decided to prosecute even though Mr Burton asked them not to proceed
Prosecutors were placed under renewed pressure to bring more domestic violence cases to court just weeks before Caroline Flack’s death.
Two official watchdogs told prosecutors and police there was ‘room for improvement’ in the handling of cases where the victim stops co-operating with the investigation.
The criticism takes on a new dimension after the TV star’s apparent suicide just hours after she learned prosecutors had decided to press ahead with a court case.
CPS lawyers decided to prosecute Miss Flack even after her boyfriend Lewis Burton asked police not to proceed. A court was told she hit him over the head with a lamp.
A court previously heard that Caroline Flack had hit her boyfriend Lewis Burton with a lamp (pictured together above)
Flack is pictured above leaving Highbury Magistrates’ Court in December last year
Known as an ‘evidence-led prosecution’, it would have relied not on his testimony but on material gathered by police such as bodycam footage taken at the presenter’s north London home in the early hours of December 12.
A former director of public prosecutions said the CPS was ‘under a lot of pressure’ to bring cases against a victim’s wishes.
In a report published just three weeks ago, police and prosecutors were told to be ‘pro-active’ in instances like Miss Flack’s, and were criticised for allowing too many domestic abuse cases to slip through the net.
The report by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services found a fifth of domestic abuse cases where the victim had stopped co-operating with the police were incorrectly dropped.
The TV presenter, aged 40, took her own life after a worried friend who was staying with her went to the shops, leaving her alone at her London home (pictured)
It has now been suggested that Flack’s trial had been a ‘show trial’ by the CPS (Flack is pictured above in a promotional shot for Love Island in 2019)
Inspectors examined a sample of 78 cases marked ‘no further action’ by police in England and Wales. They concluded that in 15 cases, or 19 per cent of the total, ‘reasonable lines of enquiry had been missed’.
In a joint statement, inspectors Wendy Williams and Kevin McGinty said: ‘Domestic abuse can have a devastating impact on victims’ lives and it is important that the police and CPS are proactive in their approach to dealing with this type of offending.’
The law allows police and prosecutors to carry on building a case against the alleged perpetrator without the victim’s help, using evidence such as statements from other witnesses, CCTV evidence and 999 recordings.
Prosecutors can even force victims to give evidence against their alleged abusers. Former director of public prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald said there would be a ‘strong presumption’ that bringing domestic violence charges would be in the public interest.
‘The CPS is under a lot of pressure these days to bring cases where victims withdraw their co-operation,’ he told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme. ‘Indeed there’s a recent report by the CPS inspectorate that called on prosecutors specifically to do this.
‘Prosecutors can often be damned if they do and damned if they don’t,’ he said.
As 170 to 180 people a year, mainly women, are killed in domestic violence incidents there is a ‘huge amount of public concern’ about such offences, Lord Macdonald added.
And it would be ‘quite rare’ to drop a prosecution because a defendant was in a vulnerable mental state.
Human rights barrister Charlotte Proudman, of Goldsmith Chambers, suggested the prosecution of Miss Flack was a ‘show trial’.
Dr Proudman told Today: ‘Looking at the circumstances of the case, I’m struggling to see why it was in the public interest to prosecute when it’s very clear that Caroline Flack, at the time, was struggling with her mental health.’