Father 'astonished' by CPS move
The father of a woman who took her own life days before she was due to go on trial accused of making a false rape claim is "still astonished" the Crown Prosecution Service decided to prosecute her.
Eleanor de Freitas, 23, died on April 7 this year, three days before her trial for perverting the course of justice was to start at Southwark Crown Court in London.
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), said yesterday the decision to pursue a criminal case against Miss de Freitas was ''correct".
The country's top prosecutor's statement came after she carried out an examination into the case of Miss de Freitas, who had bipolar disorder and had been sectioned in a mental health unit in the past.
Writing on The Guardian website, her father David de Freitas, said: "I am still astonished that the CPS decided to prosecute a very vulnerable young woman in circumstances in which the police had thought it should not take place."
Ms Saunders said she had met with Mr de Freitas, who has already criticised the CPS for pursuing his daughter.
The DPP said: ''Having considered the detail and the issues raised by the family, I am satisfied that the decision-making in this case was correct and that it was made in accordance with our policies and guidance.''
Mr de Freitas said in his article: "We want to know what our daughter went through and why. I still wonder whether, had the CPS made a different decision, our beloved daughter would be alive."
He said his daughter was worried about the "shame" she may bring on the family during the trial.
"In notes left to me and her mother after her death, Eleanor wrote apologising for her selfishness but saying she could not face the shame that she might bring to the family through the trial process.
"At least part of that 'shame' we believe is due to information gathered by her prosecutor suggesting she may have previously acted as an escort.
"This is irrelevant to the question of whether she was raped, but I think she was frightened of it coming out in court as we did not know about it," he said in his Guardian article.
The Metropolitan Police received an allegation of rape from Miss de Freitas in January last year but the case was dropped after a man was arrested and released due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
Her alleged attacker initiated a private prosecution against her to clear his name. The case was later referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which decided to continue with proceedings.
Ms Saunders said: ''Cases of perverting the course of justice or wasting police time in relation to an alleged false rape claim are rare, but where there is sufficient evidence to show that a false claim may have been made, the potential harm to those affected must be very carefully considered and an appropriate decision made."
She said Miss De Freitas's case was ''one of the most complex I have seen''.
Ms Saunders said the case met the test for the CPS to take over the prosecution, which would have continued privately regardless of whether they intervened.
The DPP added: ''The evidence in this case was strong and having considered it in light of all of our knowledge and guidance on prosecuting sexual offences and allegedly false rape claims, it is clear there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for perverting the course of justice.''
Ms Saunders said evidence included text messages and CCTV footage that directly contradicted the account Miss de Freitas gave to the police.
She said: ''It was on this basis that we concluded that there was a realistic prospect of proving that the rape allegation made by Miss de Freitas was false, and there was also a strong public interest in prosecuting due to the seriousness of the alleged offence which was maintained by the defendant for some time and which led to the arrest of an individual.''
The DPP also said she was satisfied prosecutors had taken necessary steps in considering Miss De Freitas' mental health.
A detailed report by a consultant forensic psychiatrist instructed by Miss de Freitas' legal team recommended that she was aware of the implications of making a false allegation and was fit to stand trial.