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Victims' families will be asked for views on rape charges linked to murder following Clough campaign

05/07/2012

Families of victims will be consulted on whether rape charges linked to murder should be prosecuted, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC has announced in guidance to prosecutors issued today.

The Guidance on Rape Counts Linked to Murder Left to Lie on File follows meetings between the DPP and the parents of Jane Clough, who launched a campaign after their daughter was killed by her ex-partner while he was awaiting trial for raping her.

Mr Starmer said: "Jane's family have shown real courage and dignity in the way they have dealt with her death and the issues they feel have arisen from the case against Jonathan Vass.

"I have had several meetings with Mr and Mrs Clough and they made clear to me the sense of injustice that families of victims feel when a rape charge is not prosecuted after someone admits to killing their loved one. I agreed with them on the need for victims' families to feel justice has been done in these very distressing cases."

The CPS has consulted both inside the organisation and externally on draft guidance on prosecuting offences of rape when murder has also been committed and final guidance, which takes account of the responses, has been published today.

Mr Starmer said: "The public can now see for themselves what issues prosecutors will take into account when deciding whether a rape charge linked to murder will be left on file. Due to the seriousness with which the CPS regards rape, rape counts should be prosecuted in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

"Consultation with the victim's family will also usually be essential. Prosecutors will explain all the issues and the implications of any decisions and will invite the family to express their views, which will be carefully considered and taken into account before making a decision."

As part of their Justice for Jane campaign, Mr and Mrs Clough also campaigned for a change to the bail laws to allow a prosecution right of appeal where there is a Crown Court decision to allow bail. This has been included in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act and is expected to come into force later this year.

Mr Starmer said: "I told Mr and Mrs Clough during their campaign that we would welcome the introduction of such a power for the prosecution although we would not anticipate such a right of appeal being used very often.

"If it is felt by the prosecution that a judge has got a decision on bail wrong, and the interests of victims and the wider public demanded that such a decision be challenged, then this is a useful and appropriate option for the prosecution to have available to it.

"The case of Jane Clough was particularly tragic and I have welcomed her parents' contribution to developing our approach on these issues."

The decision whether rape counts, linked to murder, should be left to lie on file, is the prosecutor's responsibility as the effect of leaving a count on file is that there can be no further proceedings against the defendant on those matters without the leave of the Crown Court or Court of Appeal.

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. Jane Clough was stabbed to death outside Blackpool Victoria hospital by her ex-partner, Jonathan Vass, on 25 July 2010. At the time, Vass was on bail on charges of raping her. On 14 October 2010 he was jailed for life at Preston Crown Court with a minimum tariff of 30 years after admitting her murder. The rape charges were ordered to be left on file.
  3. An explanation of left on file can be found here on the CPS website.
    Leaving an indictment or counts on the file
    The effect of leaving an indictment or a count to lie on the file is that there can be no further proceedings against the defendant on those matters, without the leave of the Crown Court or Court of Appeal. There is no verdict, so the proceedings are not formally terminated.
    The consent of the judge is required to leave an indictment or counts to lie on the file. In practice, the judge usually consents, provided that the defence agrees.The ability to do so is particularly useful in the following circumstances:
    • where the defendant has pleaded guilty or has been convicted of other counts in the same indictment; or
    • the defendant has pleaded guilty or has been convicted on counts on another indictment; and
    • continuation of proceedings on remaining matters is no longer needed in the public interest.
  4. The Guidance on Rape Counts Linked to Murder Left to Lie on File can be seen here
  5. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Division, Special Crime and Counter Terrorism, and Organised Crime. In 2011-2012, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health (DoH) prosecution functions were transferred to the CPS. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  6. In 2010-2011 the CPS employed around 7,745 people and prosecuted 957,881 cases with 116,898 of these in the Crown Court, and the remaining 840,983 in the magistrates' courts. Of those we prosecuted, 93,106 defendants were convicted in the Crown Court and 727,491 in the magistrates' courts. In total 86% of cases prosecuted resulted in a conviction. Further information can be found on the CPS website.
  7. 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.