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Decision to Charge

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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CPS statement on abortion related case

05/09/2013

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC said: "This was a very difficult and finely balanced decision. It was based on the individual facts of the case; it is not a policy decision. But in light of concerns raised today, I have decided that it would be sensible to put into the public domain the case specific reasons for not prosecuting in much greater detail. Clearly this will involve careful consideration of how much information can be put into the public domain by way of explanation, but my intention is for a fuller statement to made by the CPS in due course. In the mean time, I understand that the Health Secretary has written to the Attorney General asking for clarification and I am happy to assist him in any way."

Current statement explaining the decision making. This will be expanded upon in due course.

The Crown Prosecution Service has decided that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute two doctors in relation to alleged attempts to commit abortions on the grounds of foetal gender. These decisions result from an investigation (Operation Monto) carried out by several police forces and coordinated by the Metropolitan Police Service, following an undercover operation by a newspaper. We have previously advised police that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute four medical professionals in relation to this matter.

Jenny Hopkins, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London, said: "We have been asked to review two separate allegations against two medical professionals in Birmingham and Manchester concerning requests for an abortion made by a pregnant woman acting on behalf of an investigative journalist. Both suspects were doctors and providers of pregnancy terminations at the time of the alleged offences. The undercover operation involved the pregnant woman presenting herself as seeking an abortion on the grounds that she did not want to give birth to a girl. We are satisfied there was no intention to proceed.

"The Abortion Act 1967 allows for an abortion in a limited range of circumstances but not purely on the basis of not wanting a child of a specific gender.

"While the abortions did not take place, attempting to commit a criminal offence - that is, doing something that goes further than just preparing to commit it - is also a crime in its own right under the Criminal Attempts Act 1981.

"Having carefully considered the evidence, we have concluded that although the case is not straightforward, on balance there is enough evidence to justify bringing proceedings for an attempt. Accordingly, we have considered whether a prosecution is required in the public interest. It has never been the case in this country that where there is sufficient evidence a prosecution must take place, and in this case there are public interest factors both in favour of and against prosecution.

"The facilitation, or attempted facilitation of illegal abortions is a serious matter, and each case must be considered in the context of the specific circumstances of the case.

"On considering the public interest factors, as set out in the Code for Crown prosecutors, one highly relevant factor in this regard is that the responsible professional body, in this case the General Medical Council, is already involved and has the power to remove doctors from the medical register. Taking into account the need for professional judgement which deals firmly with wrongdoing, while not deterring other doctors from carrying out legitimate and medically justified abortions, we have concluded that these specific cases would be better dealt with by the GMC rather than by prosecution.

"In addition, when looking at the culpability of the doctors in this case, we must take into account the fact that doctors are required to interpret the law and apply it to range of sensitive and difficult circumstances which are not set out in the legislation. The evidence in this case was finely balanced and the law gives quite a wide discretion to doctors to determine when a risk to the health and wellbeing of a pregnant woman exists.

"In coming to this conclusion, we have also taken into account the level of harm to the victim in the case, and the fact that in these cases no abortion took place or would have taken place.

"This is a case-specific decision on the individual facts; it is not a policy decision of general application."

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. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are four national casework divisions: Central Fraud, Welfare Rural & Health, Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. A 'virtual' 14th Area is CPS Direct which provides charging decisions to all police forces and other investigators across England and Wales - it operates twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  3. At 31 March 2013 we employed a workforce of approximately 6840 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2350 prosecutors and 4110 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:  www.cps.gov.uk.
  4. 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.