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Once the Police have completed their investigations, they will refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on how to proceed. We will then make a decision on whether a suspect should be charged, and what that charge should be.

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Prosecuting Homicide

Murder and manslaughter are two of the offences that constitute homicide.

Manslaughter can be committed in one of three ways:

  1. killing with the intent for murder but where there is provocation, diminished responsibility or a suicide pact.
  2. conduct that was grossly negligent given the risk of death, and resulted in death.
  3. conduct, taking the form of an unlawful act involving a danger of some harm, that caused death.

With some exceptions, the crime of murder is committed, where a person:

  • of sound mind and discretion (i.e. sane):
  • unlawfully kills (i.e. not self-defence or other justified killing)
  • any reasonable creature (human being)
  • in being (born alive and breathing through its own lungs)
  • under the Queen's Peace
  • with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

There are other specific homicide offences, for example, infanticide, causing death by dangerous driving, and corporate manslaughter.

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CPS publishes guidance on Non-Accidental Head Injury cases involving children

06/01/2011

Updated guidance for prosecutors on dealing with Non-Accidental Head Injury (NAHI) cases involving children, formerly known as "Shaken Baby Syndrome" cases, has been published today by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The updated guidance - the first was produced five years - ago gives prosecutors information on the position taken by the Court of Appeal and the High Court on these cases; how to approach decisions to charge and prosecute; how to deal with expert evidence and the defence case.

Senior Policy Adviser Karen Squibb-Williams, of the CPS Strategy and Policy Directorate, said: "This updated guidance explains what evidence prosecutors will need to prove a NAHI case; what challenges they may face from the defence, and how to respond to them; and the importance of complying with Criminal Procedure Rules when it comes to expert evidence.

"These are complex and sensitive cases. Where the three internal head injuries central to a NAHI case are found, the prosecutor will always consider all the surrounding circumstances and the evidence in each case before reaching a decision. The guidance makes clear that it is unlikely that a charge for a homicide or attempted murder or assault offence could be justified where the only evidence available is the triad of injuries.

"Since the CPS Guidance on The Prosecution Approach to Shaken Baby Syndrome Cases was originally published in February 2006, there have been a number of cases before the Court of Appeal and the updated guidance summarises the relevant case law prosecutors should consider.

"The updated guidance makes clear prosecutors should continue to resist defence challenges to the established theory that NAHI cases will usually be diagnosed in children where sufficient force has been used to produce a combination of three internal head injuries, known as a "triad of intracranial injuries". To prove a NAHI case you will usually require the triad of injuries plus supporting evidence."

Ms Squibb-Williams said the three injuries central to the diagnosis that there has been a non-accidental head injury to a child are:

  • Retinal haemorrhages (bleeding into the linings of the eyes);
  • Subdural haemorrhages (bleeding beneath the dural membrane of the brain); 
  • Encephalopathy (damage to the brain affecting function).

This has been challenged by defence experts, said Ms Squibb-Williams.

She said: "The theory, known as the unified hyposthesis, which is used by defence experts to challenge the triad, is that the three injuries may be explained by lack of oxygen, infection, or raised intracranial pressure.

"The defence experts may also claim that the injuries could be caused by an accidental short distance fall, or in the very young, as a result of a birthing injury.

"It is important for prosecutors to know that the Court of Appeal has not endorsed the theory challenging the triad and rejected it as recently as July 2010, when it considered three joined appeals which are included in the relevant case law in the guidance.

"Each case will have its own individual facts and very careful consideration will be given in deciding whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction, and then in considering whether it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution."

A range of senior pathologists, paediatric medical experts, investigators, representatives from academia and professional bodies was involved in updating the guidance. Ms Squibb-Williams said:  "This group has provided valuable insight into the complex spectrum of medical issues and scientific terms involved in these cases, and I would like to thank them for their involvement in the production of this updated guidance."

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. Guidance On the Prosecution Approach to Non-Accidental Head Injury Cases (NAHI, formerly referred to as Shaken Baby Syndrome [SBS]) can be found on the CPS website at www.cps.gov.uk/legal/l_to_o/non_accidental_head_injury_cases/
  3. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  4. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 12 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are four specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Group, Counter-Terrorism, Organised Crime and Special Crime. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  5. The CPS employs around 8,316 people and prosecuted 982,731 cases with a conviction rate of 86.8% in the magistrates' courts and 80.7% in the Crown Court in 2009-20010. Further information can be found on the CPS website
  6. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media