Last week (10th August 2013) I wrote an opinion piece for Criminal Law & Justice Weekly (vol 177, No 32) with the title “Should the CPS give press conferences?” which I answered in the negative. The gist of it is in the title – after Stuart Hall got (rightly) criticised by the Court of Appeal for his theatricals on the steps of the Court, should we look again at the practice of the CPS in giving press releases, and sometimes press conferences, when someone is charged?
CPS Press Release
Just a few days later one of the problems highlighted came into focus with the news that Dave Lee Travis has been charged with 12 offences of indecent and sexual assault. The CPS issued a statement saying :
“Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Griffin to be charged with 11 counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault …
Ms Saunders said: “The decision to prosecute has been taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the DPP’s interim guidelines on prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse. We have determined that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest.
“We have also decided that no further action should be taken in relation to seven separate allegations against Mr Griffin as we determined that there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.” (emphasis added)
Questions for the CPS
Whilst I have doubts over the need to mention matters such as the test for a prosecution (I am concerned that this reads as if the CPS ‘know’ that he’s guilty), a bigger concern is the last paragraph. A couple of questions :
- Why do the CPS feel the need to mention that they will not be pursuing seven separate allegations?
- How is this anything other than mud-slinging?
- Isn’t there a real danger that jurors at the trial will remember that?
- Consequently, isn’t there a risk that this could prejudice a future trial?
What can you do about it?
If you agree (and I know I’m not the only one) then you can complain to the CPS about it. The first point of contact would be the CPS Press Office (email – email@example.com). Here is a (edited) letter sent be a fellow tweeter that you could do worse than adopting :
Subject: Dave Lee Travis
I am not alone in thinking that telling the public about charges NOT brought against a man who will in due course be tried for serious offences does little other than prejudice his right to a fair trial.
Please can you explain why it was felt appropriate to do this and assure us that it will not happen again?
Feel free to copy and use. But if you do email them and get a response, can you let me know what they say?