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Worth it

I have just come across a case where a man with what the police officer in disclosure at the police station called "a serious mental disorder" was arrested at what the officer described as a "care home for the mentally ill" after the man had smashed a window and caused a disturbance.  At the police station, the care home manager indicated that she was happy for this man to return as this was his first violent outburst in 10-years of being in their care.

I don't for a moment seek to criticise the police for the arrest as that removed him from the situation and gave everybody a chance to calm down.

He was interviewed by the police and I can tell you that the advice given was to  "put forward [his] version.  Client is guilty - admits he did break window."   He then went into interview and made a full confession.

For some reason, instead of cautioning or taking no further action in a case where a conviction will clearly serve no purpose a CPS lawyer authorised a charge for criminal damage.  The unsurprising result was a discharge by the magistrates at the first hearing.  The application by the Crown for costs and compensation were both refused as it was clear that the man was too ill to work and had been in care for more than a decade.

I have to ask whether prosecuting what the Crown itself describes as a very sick man, who had been ill for many years, for a relatively minor offence in circumstances where the victim wants him returned to their care ASAP is in the public interest.  What benefit did the public gain from this?  What outcome was the CPS hoping for?


  1. I suspect it is to get the number of convictions up, so when performance reviews come up (or reviews about who is to be made redundant) the person at the CPS can point at their record and say "Look at all these successful cases I have prosecuted" It seems that the CPS is starting to take the American route of being creative in its charges. I read in my local paper about the CPS bringing a prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for instant messaging chat having decided that IM's were publications.
    Here is the article.

  2. It's important matters such as these are recorded on his record. Otherwise, next time he does it, or something more serious, some clever defence lawyer will tell the court they can't take it into consideration as it was never prosecuted.

    Cautioning is a police discretion, so if it was referred to the CPS for a charge they would have already discounted that possibility.

  3. I would like to think that the CPS decision maker in this case did not follow guidelines or policy. If they did, CPS need to adjust said guidelines asap. Clearly this prosecution was in nobody's interest ie that of the public.

  4. Anonymous has this wrong, at least in my area. A police officer here may not caution without approval from the CPS. Paul UK has this absolutely right - it's good for the stats - a sure fire conviction. And I am delighted that my fellow magistrates did the right thing.

  5. Ed (not Bystander)16 November 2010 at 21:33

    Anonymous also has it wrong in that matters that weren't prosecuted can still be admitted as evidence under s101 Criminal Justice Act 2003. So, 0 out of 2. Good effort.

  6. Anon, you are correct that only the police have the power to administer a caution; however, Home Office Circular 16/2008 sets out when the CPS should refer an allegation to the police for a caution. The court can even refer a case back for a caution in some circumstances, though I grant you it rarely happens.

    The requirements for cautioning are:
    1. the offender has made a clear and reliable admission (either verbally or in writing);
    2. There is a realistic prospect of conviction;
    3. It is in the public interest to offer a simple caution; and
    4. The offender is 18 years or more at the time that the caution is to be administered.

    All four conditions were met meaning that the CPS could have referred the matter to the police for a simple caution if they so chose.

    Here's a link to the CPS's very helpful guidance

  7. But would it be a million miles from the mark to suggest that your man already has convictions and/or cautions?

    And to Ed: you could make a thousand bad character applications in a thousand courts and you would never see a single, non prosecuted matter admitted in evidence. Besides, it was more a reference to the sentencing exercise than as a triable issue.

  8. Ed (not Bystander)17 November 2010 at 02:43

    And on the evidence so far, you could make a thousand assertions and be wrong on all of them. s112 provides that admissible '“misconduct” means the commission of an offence or other reprehensible behaviour'. That is, by definition, things that not only weren't prosecuted, but can't be prosecuted.

  9. and it happens and is admitted regularly : domestic violence cases notably

    really not doing very well anonymous

  10. I have certainly seen non-proven bad character going before a jury. In fact in a recent rape case, evidence for the Crown was called from a woman who had made an allegation against the defendant in the early 1990s but who had been disbelieved at the time in order to bolster the evidence of the "new" victim.

    I don't know for sure whether he had any previous. There was nothing disclosed either way so he would have been treated as a person of good character. If nothing is disclosed it usually means he does not have a record, but that's not always the case.

    In any event, I doubt he would have had a massive record give he has been, as I said, resident in a mental care home for the past decade.


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