North West Successes 2016

Prosecutor devises a new and more efficient way of prosecuting cases involving indecent images of children

Zoe Salter, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West

Zoe Salter is lead prosecutor on Lancashire's part of a National Crime Agency operation launched in March 2015 involving indecent images of children (IIOC). Approximately 90 people were arrested in this operation; most of those charged made early guilty pleas.

With increasing levels of IIOC cases, Zoe thought her CPS Area needed a more efficient way of prosecuting them. She worked with the police, providing face to face pre-charge advice on those arrested and drafting new, streamlined, indictments (the 'charge sheets' containing the offences with which a defendant is charged). Previously defendants were charged with 'specimen' charges (demonstrating, for example, the timescale of the offending) and then 'roll up' charges (reflecting the extent of the offending, including the remainder of the images). This could often create long indictments where there were many images. Now there is a single charge of possession between appropriate dates and single charges of making indecent images, one for each category of images, slimming down indictments to an average of four counts.

Zoe arranged for the High Tech Crime Unit to give a presentation on indecent images and attended operation meetings with management, the police and Crown Advocates, planning how cases could be dealt with more effectively.

As a result of Zoe's work, Lancashire police now provide the CPS with early Streamlined Forensic Reports (SFR) - the evidence we rely upon in court - and lawyers now use the new streamlined indictments. Lancashire is one of the first parts of the country to prosecute cases in this way.

Head of Crime Detective for Lancashire Police, Chief Superintendent Ian Critchley, said: "Both the increase in - and complexity of - these cases has meant we needed to develop our approach, to bring to justice offenders and identify and safeguard victims. Zoe and her team have now got us to this position, which is testament to their hard work, dedication and commitment."

Derek Artis, Deputy Head of NW RASSO said: "Safeguarding children is a CPS priority, and Zoe's commitment and desire for change has been extremely impressive. Without her efforts these important changes would not have come about so quickly. A clear case from the outset results in guilty pleas or convictions and orders being put in place to protect children more quickly, and saves resources for all agencies."

Prosecutor secures guilty pleas for family friend who stripped vulnerable man of life savings

Gavin Howie, Crown Advocate for CPS North West

Scott Cross was jailed for 4 years and 8 months at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court in September 2016 for blackmail, theft and fraud of a family friend between April and November 2015. His partner Abbygail Tarrant was given an 18 month community order with 150 hours unpaid work for aiding and abetting him. Both were also given indefinite restraining orders.

The victim who was physically disabled and suffered severe depression was specifically targeted by Cross as a meal ticket. He preyed on his vulnerability to help himself to everything he had in the world. He started with 'borrowing' money which was never paid back, this soon progressed to threats to reveal 'secrets' and threats of violence if he did not pay up. The victim handed over 7,000 from his bank accounts, plus cash, jewellery and personal belongings from his home. When the money dried up, he was driven to a shop to sign up for a mobile and tablet contract and forced to be guarantor for a loan. Tarrant was aware of Cross's actions and supported him in them.

Gavin Howie did all he could to achieve justice for this vulnerable victim, seeing the case through from start to finish. He arranged two pre-charge case conferences with officer in the case, DC Donnelly, to build a strong and compelling case from the outset. Together they scrutinised Cross's Facebook account and telephone records in order to prove the details in the victim's evidence. In a detailed schedule they matched the dates of the threats to when the cash was withdrawn. They then sought an additional witness to produce the victim's bank records.

When the two defendants were faced with the overwhelming evidence against them were left with no other option than to plead guilty meaning that the victim did not have to go through the ordeal of testifying at a trial.

Gavin then ensured he was allocated the case for the sentence hearing which DC Donnelly, who by this time had started a new job, also attended.

DC Donnelly said: "I would like to thank Gavin for his handling of the case and believe his efforts should be formally recognised. I believe excellent work should be recognised and Gavin's work on this case was indeed exceptional."