Death of Belly Mujinga: CPS statement
Suzanne Llewellyn, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: “Belly Mujinga’s death from COVID-19 aged just 47 in April was a heartbreaking event that shocked the country.
“At the request of British Transport Police, following their decision to take no further action in this case, the CPS has now independently reviewed the evidence and advised on any further lines of enquiry that might support a prosecution.
"We considered whether charges could be brought in relation to homicide, assault or public order offences.
“As part of this review, we studied enhanced CCTV, forensic materials and witness statements.
“CCTV and witness evidence was insufficiently clear and consistent to substantiate allegations of deliberate coughing or spitting, meaning no charges can be brought for assault or public order offences.
“Medical tests confirmed the suspect had not been infected with coronavirus, which together with the lack of other evidence rules out any charges in relation to homicide.
“Therefore, after careful consideration and with all lines of enquiry explored, we have advised BTP no further reliable evidence has become available to change their original decision in this case.
“We have met with the family of Ms Mujinga to explain our reasoning, which we know will be disappointing for them. Our deepest sympathies remain with the family.”
Belly Mujinga, 47, was working as a sales clerk at London's Victoria Station on 21 March 2020 when she was allegedly spat at by a customer claiming to have coronavirus.
Two weeks later on 5 April, Ms Mujinga died after contracting the disease. British Transport Police (BTP) launched an investigation into her death and a suspect was interviewed under caution, but officers concluded no further action should be taken.
On 1 June, the force approached the CPS for Early Investigative Advice in respect of that decision.
Prosecutors undertook an independent review of the evidence and provided advice to the police.
The key evidence considered included:
- CCTV footage. CCTV gathered by BTP at the station concourse was enhanced and studied in detail by police and prosecutors. While the footage showed an interaction lasting around 15 seconds between the suspect and railway staff, it did not provide any conclusive evidence of an offence taking place.
- Medical/forensic tests. The suspect was tested for COVID-19 on 25 March - four days after the incident at Victoria - but the results confirmed he had not been infected with the virus. DNA analysis of Ms Mujinga’s clothing was inconclusive as to whether she had been coughed or spat on.
- Witness accounts. A number of witnesses were interviewed as part of the police investigation. However, the accounts differed and did not provide a consistent enough picture of what had taken place to bring criminal charges before a court.
Offences considered by the CPS included:
- Manslaughter. As there was no direct medical or other strong evidence linking the suspect with Ms Mujinga's infection, no offence could be considered under the Homicide Act 1957.
- Assault. The CPS has been clear throughout the coronavirus pandemic that anyone coughing and spitting on key workers faces being charged with assault. The issue in Ms Mujinga’s case was that the evidence did not demonstrate with sufficient clarity that a deliberate attack had taken place.
- Public order offences. As with assault, there was insufficient evidence to charge any suspect with public order offences.
In light of the above, the CPS concluded there were not any grounds to alter the original police decision to take no further action in this case.
The CPS's function is not to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether it is appropriate to present charges for the criminal court to consider.
The CPS assessment of any case is not in any sense a finding of, or implication of, any guilt or criminal conduct. It is not a finding of fact, which can only be made by a court, but rather an assessment of what it might be possible to prove to a court, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
Notes to editors
- Suzanne Llewellyn is a Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor at CPS West Midlands, which has oversight of British Transport Police cases
- More about the CPS approach to 'coronavirus' cough and spit assaults.