RIVER CYNON DEATH: Family wins bid for review into the decision not to prosecute
The family of a 13-year-old boy who died after being pushed into the River Cynon have won a High Court bid for a review of the decision not to prosecute the teenager accused of being responsible.
Christopher Kapessa was allegedly pushed into the River Cynon in South Wales by a 14-year-old boy in July 2019, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to charge the teenager.
The decision not to prosecute was confirmed in a review carried out by the CPS in July last year after Christopher’s family appealed, despite admitting there was “evidence to support a prosecution”.
Christopher’s mother, Alina Joseph, brought legal action against the CPS, asking the High Court to review their decision.
At a hearing on Thursday June 10, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb granted permission for a judicial review, adding: “The threshold is necessarily lofty but no defendant is infallible.”
The judge allowed the application on five grounds, including that the CPS’s decision failed to “properly value human life” and that “undue and improper weight” was given to the impact of the prosecution on the teenage suspect.
Michael Mansfield QC, for Christopher’s family, told the court: “Sympathy does not come into it. Yes, it is a young person, but as was the person who died.”
Mr Mansfield argued that there was a large enough public interest in prosecuting the then 14-year-old, as well as evidence to hold a trial.
He said: “It is past the evidential threshold because the allegation here is unlawful act manslaughter which has very particular criteria.
“It is very rare indeed that a prosecution for homicide does not follow once the evidential threshold has been crossed.”
He added: “We say that this is a case where the prosecutor would be bound to come to the conclusion that it is in the public interest for those matters to be reviewed.”
The High Court heard that there were 16 people at the scene of the incident, and Mr Mansfield alleged some of them had not been honest with the police.
He said: “The young people plainly to begin with – or some of them, we don’t know how many – decided either together or apart that they were not going to reveal who did what, let alone what happened.”
He later added: “What sort of message does that communicate to the community of young people if he is not prosecuted?
“That it is all right to lie? That it is all right not to disclose? A responsible citizen would find that abhorrent.”
Duncan Penny QC, for the CPS, argued the decision to bring a prosecution in any case is not automatic even if there is a high public interest, and that the family’s arguments had been met in the original review by the body.
The CPS will now have 21 days to provide evidence to prepare for the judicial review, including the evidence used to come to the decision not to prosecute.
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