Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

146 charged after victims' appeals

The CPS has reversed decisions not to prosecute nearly 150 suspects under the new victims' right to review scheme

Almost 150 suspects have been charged with offences after their alleged victims appealed against initial decisions not to go ahead with a prosecution, according to new figures.

The decisions were reversed under the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) victims' right to review scheme, which was brought in last year in an effort to improve confidence in the justice system.

The BBC, which obtained the figures, said that a mong the successful victims' appeals were 80 cases of violence and 27 involving alleged sexual offences.

The broadcaster said that between June 2013 - when the scheme started - and this March, 1,186 appeals were lodged, of which 162 were upheld, a success rate of 13.7%.

Sixteen of the successful appeals involved cases where charges had been brought and then dropped, so a prosecution could not be re-started.

In the remaining cases, at least 146 suspects were charged with offences for which they had initially escaped prosecution.

In two cases in which charges were brought the victims had died.

One followed an alleged "road rage" incident, and the other involved a pedestrian who was hit by a car while crossing a road.

The CPS made 113,952 decisions in England and Wales which could have been reviewed, meaning less than 0.14% were overturned, the BBC said.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "What we would like is for victims to be reassured that we don't routinely get cases wrong. Where we do get it wrong, we will look at them again and they can challenge it.

"So it gives them a tremendous sense of empowerment."

The process was criticised by Nicole Westmarland, Professor of Criminology at Durham University, who told the BBC: "What we essentially have is a panel of colleagues reviewing the decision of somebody who they may be personally friends with."

But Ms Saunders said: "It's wrong to say it's looked at by colleagues who may be friends. The scheme is that it will be looked at by somebody different, initially within the office, normally somebody more senior.

"It is looked in accordance with the code, so very professionally. There is a second right to review as well, so if the victim is still not satisfied with that initial one the second right is that it goes to our headquarters division which is very separate from all the areas."

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