Crown prosecution guilty of breaching the human rights act

By Blaine Williams

In a landmark ruling, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has been found guilty of breaking the Human Rights Act.

The CPS decided to not pursue the case of an assault victim on the grounds of the victim having a mental health problem.

The victim had his ear bitten off in a vicious attack, in full view of several witnesses, in 2005.

A man was charged with grievous bodily harm but the case was dropped on the morning of the trial, when the CPS found the victims mental health history, because the CPS decided he could not give credible evidence.

The victim’s lawyers brought a judicial review against the decision by the CPS, and today the High Court ruled the decision by the CPS to be irrational, unlawful and in breach of article three of the Human Rights Act.

Paul farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “Today’s judgement is a ray of hope for people with mental health problems who are too often let down by the criminal justice system.

“The circumstances that stop people from giving reliable evidence are extremely rare, but currently anyone with any history of mental distress can be dismissed out of hand.

“If the legal service is to perform its purpose, the Crown Prosecution Service has to commit themselves to tackle this injustice, rather than allowing victims to be silenced. Vulnerable victims need support, not further victimisation by the legal system”.

The CPS has accepted they failed to help the victim achieve justice.

Keir Starmer QC, director of public prosecutions said: “The way in which the CPS let this man down was simply unacceptable. As DPP, I intend to take steps to ensure that it could never happen again.”

Dru Sharpling, chief crown prosecutor for CPS London said: “We failed this man very badly and I have written to him to apologise.

“Our actions flew in the face of the progress the CPS had made and continues to make to improve care of victims and witnesses in recent years.”

Vera Baird QC, solicitor general, condemned the CPS’ actions saying: “It is right that both the DPP Keir Starmer and Chief Crown Prosecutor for London Dru Sharpling have immediately acknowledged that this was an appalling lapse of judgement.

“It is a blot on the record of an organisation that has been rightly praised for its work on equality. The CPS remains totally committed to that work.”

The CPS for London has commissioned Marie Taber, a director of Mind, to carry out an internal review to determine why the CPS failed this victim. Her findings will help to ensure that this situation does not happen again.

The victim has been awarded damages in an unprecedented move by the High Court.