Recent tragic news has highlighted the Crown Prosecution’s pursuit of so called victimless prosecutions.
But what is a victimless prosecution?
It is a case either at the police station or proceeding before the Court where the victim is either unknown or unwilling to assist with a prosecution, whether they were unwilling to assist from the start of the case or they have withdrawn their support part way through.
This type of prosecution is evidence-based, it can be used in cases of domestic abuse, violence on the streets and even for rape cases. The victim may have given a statement initially, or been spoken to when the Police Officers have activated their body worn camera and captured their first account.
Subsequently the victim or witness will have withdrawn their statement, or declined to give a statement, or, as in the case of violence on the street, be completely unknown. Prosecutions proceed if there is a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to pursue a prosecution.
Material gathered by body worn cameras and 999 calls can be used if it is deemed to be “res gestae”, which means the thing speaks for itself. To be admissible the evidence must have been taken at a time that the person making it was so emotionally overpowered by the incident that the possibility of concoction or distortion can be disregarded.
CCTV can show an incident, but may only capture part of it. It may not show the start of an incident, which can be crucial if the there is an argument of self defence.
The defence can argue that “res gestae” evidence should not be allowed as the evidence cannot be challenged and to admit it would be more prejudicial than probative.
Victims and witnesses can also be forced to come to Court by the issuing of witness summons and in extreme cases a witness warrant, when the police are ordered by the Court to arrest a victim or witness and bring them to Court.
The Crown Prosecution Service are being criticised for dropping too many cases that are victimless and so we will only see an increase in the numbers of this type of prosecution.