CPS defends its decisions to bring charges in wake of Caroline Flack’s death

16 February 2020, 14:50

Caroline Flack was found dead in her London flat yesterday
Caroline Flack was found dead in her London flat yesterday. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today issued an explanation on its decision-making process amid criticism it has faced in the wake of the tragic death of Caroline Flack.

Caroline, 40, killed herself at her London flat. Her death came one day after she learned prosecutors were proceeding with an assault case against her.

Her tragic death rocked the nation with floods of tributes from celebrities. What role the media might have played in her death, and a move to prosecute her over an allegation of assault against her partner were both coming under intense scrutiny today.

The CPS issued a statement today, insisting it was “not a comment on an individual case” but said it had been “asked questions” about its role in charging individuals with criminal offences - particularly in cases of domestic abuse.

In a long statement published today, prosecutors explained: “The CPS does not investigate allegations of crime, or choose which cases to consider.

“CPS prosecutors must review every case referred to us by the police, or other investigators.

“We provide expert legal advice early in investigations to help build strong cases, or identify where a suspect should not be charged.

“We do not decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence - that is for the jury, judge or magistrate - but we must make the key decision of whether a case should be put before a court.”

The statement goes on to say that the decision to charge an individual is based on a two-stage test.

Does the evidence provide a realistic prospect of conviction? Is it in the public interest to prosecute?

The statement adds: “Guidance for prosecutors when considering domestic abuse allegations gives specific advice on how to proceed when a complainant does not want to support a prosecution, which can often be a feature of these difficult cases.

“It provides guidance on the information required to understand why a complainant may withdraw support and the different options that should be considered, including proceeding without the complainant’s support if other evidence is available.

“It sets out a number of factors which may be helpful when considering the public interest in whether to charge in these circumstances.”

Caroline Flack’s management took the unprecedented step of speaking out against the CPS decision in the wake of her death yesterday.

Her management said: “In recent months Caroline had been under huge pressure because of an ongoing case and potential trial which has been well reported.

“They (CPS) pursued this when they knew not only how very vulnerable Caroline was but also that the alleged victim did not support the prosecution and had disputed the CPS version of events.”

A spokesman added: “The CPS should look at themselves today and how they pursued a show trial that was not only without merit but not in the public interest.

“And ultimately resulted in significant distress to Caroline.”

Caroline was due to face court on March 4. She was under strict bail conditions that prevented her from contacting her boyfriend Lewis until after the trial.

After entering a not guilty plea to the assault charge at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court, she was released on bail.

She and Mr Burton are understood to have still been in a relationship at the time of her death, and he yesterday posted a picture of the pair to his Instagram, captioned "I love you."

Her family confirmed her death yesterday and said: "We can confirm that our Caroline passed away today, the 15th of February.

"We would ask that the press respect the privacy of the family at this difficult time and we would ask they make no attempt to contact us and/or photograph us."

An ITV spokesperson said: "Everybody at Love Island and ITV is shocked and saddened by this desperately sad news.

"Caroline was a much loved member of the Love Island team and our sincere thoughts and condolences are with her family and friends."

A family lawyer confirmed Ms Flack took her own life the day after Valentine's Day.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK.