Perverting the Course of Justice – false allegations in rape and domestic abuse cases

Just before Christmas the CPS announced new interim guidance to deal with false allegations in cases of domestic abuse and rape.  Prosecutors are faced with difficult decisions as to whether they should prosecute in such cases for perverting the course of justice.  The consultation can be found on http://www.cps.gov.uk/consultations/pcj_index.html

The key questions that prosecutors now need to consider are set out below:

14. When prosecutors are considering the case of complainants who have retracted allegations of rape or domestic violence, they should always ask themselves the following questions.

15. First, whether there is evidence which tends to suggest that the original allegation was or may have been true. Such evidence might include:

  • medical evidence,
  • the tape of any 999 call,
  • any CCTV footage,
  • any other evidence (e.g. witnesses, DNA, etc.).

16. Second, the prosecutor should always consider whether there is a background of domestic violence which may have influenced the complainant’s decision to retract. Useful sources of information may include the specialist support services such as the Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) or Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) if involved in the case. Prosecutors might also consider the complainant’s GP records, the Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) notes, the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment and Honour-based and Forced Marriage (DASH) risk assessment, or whether there have been previous call-outs of the police to the address.

17. In double retraction cases, the prosecutor should be cautious about charging two alternative counts of perverting the course of justice. If the prosecution is unable to prove that the original allegation was false then there will not be a realistic prospect of conviction. It is not proper for the prosecution to charge two mutually inconsistent counts and then invite the jury to choose which one it prefers (Tsang Ping-Nam v R (1982) 74 Cr. App. R. 139).

Something for all IDVAs to be aware of.

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