Following the tragic death of Caroline Flack over the weekend, tens of thousands of people have been musing on social media as to why the CPS might have continued with its case against her.
This was despite the alleged victim, her partner, Lewis Burton, not making any formal allegations against her.
Towards the end of last year, police had been called to Caroline’s address after her Mr Burton called 999 claiming that he had been hit over the head with a lamp.
The Met Police investigated what happened and, as they have to do with incidents which involve an allegation of violence, the case was referred to the CPS.
“A number of people have asked questions about the tragic case of Caroline Flack.
“I have no particular insight into her case or her personal circumstances. But some general observations are set out below for assistance.
“Firstly, the criticism of the Crown Prosecution Service. Allegations of domestic violence raise a number of complexities. Often a complainant will withdraw support for a prosecution. But, for obvious reasons, that can’t always be determinative.
“Cases cannot be dropped simply because a complainant doesn’t want their partner prosecuted. Such a system would reward those who successfully coerce victims to withdraw. Sometimes cases must be pursued without the consent of the alleged victim. But not always.
“Even if there is enough evidence to prosecute (and there are ways to prosecute without a willing witness of complaint), the public interest test must be applied.
“Nobody, except those involved in a criminal case, knows enough details to comment on whether the CPS was right or wrong to pursue a prosecution.
“But certain difficult truths are worthy of reflection. Such as the lack of systemic oversight for the ongoing welfare of the accused.
“As a prosecution and defence barrister, I see frequently how, save in cases where an accused has severe mental health problems that impact upon the legalities of the trial process, there is little consideration for the impact of proceedings upon a defendant’s welfare.
“Rarely is it acknowledged how the strain of the criminal process – whether the allegation is true or not – can affect a person. Can break a person. And this lack of care pervades not only the system, but our society. Which brings us to how, as a society, we treat those accused.
“How we still, in the 21st century, put the accused in the media stocks, assume their guilt or moral fault, reduce and minimise human complexities, dehumanise and commodify the vulnerable, and consume their personal tragedies for our own transient edification.
“As fingers are frantically pointed in every direction, and articles are deleted and history is hastily rewritten, maybe our priority should instead be to look at how we treat the people – the living, breathing, bleeding human beings – at the centre of our criminal justice system”.
You can find ‘The Secret Barrister’ on Twitter @BarristerSecret.
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