Family wins legal bid to review decision not to prosecute teen over river death

The family of 13-year-old Christopher Kapesa, who was killed after being pushed into the Sinon River in South Wales in July 2019, has won a High Court bid to review a decision not to prosecute the teenager on charges of culpability.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) originally decided not to charge the 14-year-old boy, although it admitted “Evidence to support the prosecution”, One position was confirmed in a review conducted last year following an appeal by Kapesa’s family.

Christopher’s mother Alina Joseph then took legal action against the CPS, asking the High Court to review their decision.

At a hearing on Thursday, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb allowed judicial review, saying: “The threshold is essentially high but no defendant is infallible.”

The judge allowed the application on five grounds, including the CPS’s decision failing to “appropriately value human life” and giving “undue and undue weight” to the impact of the prosecution on the juvenile suspect.

“Success on review will be achieved only in rare cases,” cautioned Justice Cheema-Grubb.

“The threshold is essentially high, but no defendant is infallible, and sometimes the supervisory jurisdiction of this court is attached. To obtain permission, there must be a reasonably debatable basis with a realistic likelihood of success.

“Having the benefit of hearing the arguments, I grant permission to apply for judicial review.”

Earlier, Michael Mansfield QC, appearing for Kapesa’s family, told the court: “Sympathy doesn’t come into it. Yes, it’s a young man, but as was the man who died.”

Mr Mansfield argued that there was enough public interest to prosecute the then 14-year-old as well.

“It is beyond the bounds of evidence as the charge here is unlawful act murder, which has very specific criteria,” he said.

“It is very rare indeed that once the threshold of evidence is exceeded the prosecution for murder is not followed.

“We state that this is a case where the prosecutor would be bound to come to the conclusion that it is in the public interest to review those cases.”

The High Court heard that Ronda Sinon Taff, Mountain Ash, had 16 people at the scene, some of whom, Mr Mansfield, alleged had not been honest with the police about what had happened.

“The young people apparently started out – or some of them, we don’t know how many – decided either together or separately that they were not going to reveal who did what, let go of what happened. Give,” he said.

“To begin with, it becomes ‘he jumped off the bridge’ then it becomes ‘he slipped over the water.

“What kind of message does this convey to a community of young people if he is not prosecuted?” Mr Mansfield continued.

“Is it okay to lie? It’s okay not to disclose? A responsible citizen would find that disgusting.”

The CPS representative, Duncan Penny QC, argued that the decision to bring prosecution is never automatic, even if there is significant public interest, and claimed that the family’s arguments were addressed in the original review.

The CPS now has 21 days to provide its evidence in preparation for judicial review, including evidence coming to its original decision not to prosecute the case.

Additional reporting by agencies


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