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CPS explains decision not to continue the prosecution of two men for merchant shipping offences


There has been some concern about the CPS decision not to continue the prosecution of two men in relation to merchant shipping offences in October. We want to explain the legal reasons for this decision as much as we can to aid public understanding of this outcome.

Our decisions are usually made on what is called a full code test, which involves assessing all the available evidence and considering the public interest of pursuing the case to determine if there is a realistic prospect of conviction. Only if those tests are met can we authorise a charge.

In this case, as the men were due to be released from immigration detention and posed a flight risk the decision to charge was made on the threshold test. This test is used when a full file of evidence is not yet available but the seriousness of the case justifies an immediate decision and there is reasonable grounds to believe that continuing the investigation will provide evidence that would give a realistic prospect of conviction.

Our case was that the actions of the men were responsible for the endangerment of the vessel, but further material was then supplied by a maritime expert which significantly undermined whether there was a threat of danger.

Initial reports had indicated there was a real and imminent threat, but additional mobile phone footage and further expert analysis of the evidence cast doubt on whether the ship or the crew were put in danger.

As the evidence could not show that the ship or crew were threatened, the legal test for the offence of conduct endangering ships under S.58 Merchant Shipping Act 1995 was no longer met.

On that basis we concluded there was no longer a realistic prospect of a conviction for this offence and discontinued the case.

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