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CPS statement on Rebecca Leighton


The Crown Prosecution Service has decided that it is no longer appropriate to continue the case against Rebecca Leighton, charged with criminal damage intending to endanger life following unexplained deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital, Greater Manchester.

The Greater Manchester Police investigation into the deaths at the hospital continues with lines of inquiry to be pursued. If further evidence is presented to the CPS then the prosecution could be re-started, given the seriousness of the case.

The Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal said: "Rebecca Leighton was charged on the basis that there was a reasonable suspicion she had committed the offences and there were reasonable grounds for believing the continuing investigation would provide further evidence within a reasonable amount of time.

"When we make a decision on this basis it would be wrong of us to keep a suspect in custody indefinitely without keeping a very close eye on what evidence is emerging and whether objections to bail can be justified.

"The inquiries, which are still ongoing, have not so far provided us with a stronger case which would meet the test that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. This is the test all cases must meet for a prosecution to go ahead.

"We have conducted a review of the case with senior police officers and sought the advice of leading counsel on whether it would be right to keep Rebecca Leighton in custody while investigations are continuing.

"The advice we have received is that on the evidence currently available there is not a case in law which could proceed and that the charges should be discontinued.

"We have therefore this afternoon informed the prison where Rebecca Leighton is being held on remand that the case against her has been discontinued and she can be released immediately. It is right and proper for us to do this.

"As this is very much a complex investigation with lines of inquiry still being followed, there is the prospect that further evidence might emerge which the CPS would then consider alongside the evidence gathered so far. The law does allow us to reinstate charges in those circumstances, particularly where the allegations are serious."

Rebecca Leighton also faced one charge of theft of medication belonging to the hospital. This charge has also been discontinued. Mr Afzal said: "While there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction on this charge, we have decided it is not in the public interest to proceed as Rebecca Leighton would be likely to receive a nominal penalty given the time she has already spent in custody."


Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. Rebecca Leighton was charged under the Threshold Test, which is included in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The Code sets out the general principles to be followed by prosecutors when making decisions about prosecutions. An explanation of the Threshold Test in the Code can be found at:
  3. On 27 July 2011, Rebecca Leighton was charged with three charges of criminal damage intending to endanger life; three charges of criminal damage being reckless as to whether life would be endangered; one charge of theft. All these charges have now been discontinued.
  4. The maximum sentence for criminal damage intending to endanger life or being reckless as to whether life would be endangered is life imprisonment. The maximum sentence for theft is seven years imprisonment.
  5. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  6. 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 Group, Special Crime and Counter-Terrorism, and Organised Crime. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.