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Statement from Roger Coe-Salazar on Levi Bellfield trial process

24/06/2011

Roger Coe-Salazar, Chief Crown Prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service in the South East said:

"There is no doubt that this experience has been extremely distressing for the Dowler family and it is impossible not to be moved and disturbed by the sentiments they have expressed today. I and my staff find the courage that they have displayed over such a long period of time, and most recently during the trial, most humbling.

"We carry our role towards victims and witnesses at the heart of what we do and we know from experience that the trial process can be a highly traumatic experience for witnesses and loved ones. The adversarial nature of our criminal trial system in this country is designed to test the evidence given by witnesses, be they for the prosecution or defence, so as to ensure safe conviction and acquittal of the innocent.

"A prime focus of the prosecution team from the outset was to provide as much support to the Dowler family as possible. This involved a number of meetings to explain the court process as well as to discuss what might be said in court depending on the nature of the defence advanced. However we must recognise that there are some aspects of the trial, in particular in cross examination, which no amount of general foresight can ever prepare someone for. Even more so in this case due to the huge public interest and national media coverage.

"I would now like to address some particular aspects related to this case.

"We were legally required to disclose to the defence evidence obtained during the initial police investigation into Mr Dowler. This was because that evidence became relevant to the defence being put forward to the jury, irrespective of it being a defence that the prosecution dismissed as being ludicrous and which observers may have found offensive. Nevertheless, even in such emotive moments we cannot lose sight of a fundamental principle within our legal system that a defendant should be able to advance his defence before a jury.

"Once we became aware of the actual nature of the defence that was going to be put forward and the likely evidence that would be advanced to support the defence theory we applied for reporting restrictions on the cross examination. The judge, in balancing the representations of the prosecution with the interests of open justice, refused the prosecution's application.

"During the course of Sally Dowler's cross examination the prosecution did object to questioning by the defence wherever we legitimately could. After witnessing the distress the experience caused Mrs Dowler we decided not to call Milly's sister, Gemma, to give evidence.

"In deciding whether a prosecution is required in the public interest, a range of factors are taken into account, in particular the views expressed by the victim or their family. It is a testament to the Dowler family's fortitude that they supported the prosecution of Levi Bellfield for the abominable crime he committed. I know they feel today that the jury trial process has let them down, but I hope that in the future the pain and anguish they are presently feeling will be somewhat diluted as a result of the convictions secured yesterday."

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