Wrongful convictions are a terrible risk in our frighteningly imperfect justicesystem.

There is a somewhat distasteful expression that prosecuting barristers occasionally use after a jury has convicted: “I potted him,” they will say to anyone who happens to be listening, usually with a faintly repellent smugness.

There is more to prosecuting than potting a defendant as though he were a celluloid ball, important public service though that can often be. Prosecutors also have a critical role in protecting the innocent. A good prosecutor should never take an unfair point, should never try to adduce clearly inadmissible evidence and above all should always disclose evidence that undermines their own case or supports that of the defence. The police too are under a duty to follow all reasonable lines of inquiry and to reveal what they discover to the prosecutor even if it undermines a case they thought they were building against a guilty man. Continue reading “Wrongful convictions are a terrible risk in our frighteningly imperfect justicesystem.”

Lord Janner: Was the DPP right? What can the complainants do next?

The Crown Prosecution Service has announced that Greville Janner will not be prosecuted for sexual offences against boys in Leicester during the 1970s and 1980s.

Greville Janner: Alzheimer's disease is incurable
Greville Janner: Alzheimer’s disease is incurable

The CPS says the case passes its “evidential test.” They believe they have evidence which makes a conviction more likely than not. The reason for not proceeding is that, in the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, a prosecution “would not be in the public interest.”

The announcement has been greeted with outrage. According to one, unnamed, complainant quoted on the Leicestershire Police website:

This animal is still being protected because [of his status] and isn’t able to stand trial. They say that it’s not in the public interest, but isn’t it in the public interest to know what his victims have gone through at the hands of this man?”

It seems quite unprecedented for an investigating police force to quote someone describing an unconvicted individual in such terms.

There are two questions:

Why did Ms Saunders find that a prosecution was not in the public interest?

What can those aggrieved by the decision do about it? Continue reading “Lord Janner: Was the DPP right? What can the complainants do next?”