THE family of a 13-year-old boy who died after being pushed into a river have won a High Court bid for a review of the decision not to prosecute the teenager accused of being responsible.
Christopher Kapessa was allegedly pushed into the River Cynon in South Wales by a 14-year-old boy in July 2019, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to charge the teenager as it was not in the public interest.
The decision not to prosecute was confirmed in a review carried out by the CPS in July last year after Christopher’s family appealed, despite admitting there was “evidence to support a prosecution”.
Christopher’s mother, Alina Joseph, brought legal action against the CPS, asking the High Court to review their decision.
At a hearing on Thursday, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb allowed a judicial review, adding: “The threshold is necessarily lofty but no defendant is infallible.”
The judge allowed the application on five grounds, including that the CPS’s decision failed to “properly value human life” and that “undue and improper weight” was given to the impact of the prosecution on the teenage suspect.
Michael Mansfield QC, for Christopher’s family, told the court: “Sympathy does not come into it. Yes, it is a young person, but as was the person who died.”
Mr Mansfield argued that there was a large enough public interest in prosecuting the then 14-year-old, as well as evidence to hold a trial.
He said: “It is past the evidential threshold because the allegation here is unlawful act manslaughter which has very particular criteria.
“It is very rare indeed that a prosecution for homicide does not follow once the evidential threshold has been crossed.”
He added: “We say that this is a case where the prosecutor would be bound to come to the conclusion that it is in the public interest for those matters to be reviewed.”
Ms Joseph has previously said she believes the decision not to bring a prosecution was because her son was black and has accused both South Wales Police and the CPS of institutional racism.
However, the CPS has previously said race played no part in its decision making.
On Thursday, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb rejected the family’s argument that the CPS failed to consider the public interest in showing there is no racial bias in charging decisions.
The High Court heard that there were 16 people at the scene of the incident, and Mr Mansfield alleged some of them had not been honest with the police.
He said: “The young people plainly to begin with – or some of them, we don’t know how many – decided either together or apart that they were not going to reveal who did what, let alone what happened.”
He later added: “What sort of message does that communicate to the community of young people if he is not prosecuted?
“That it is all right to lie? That it is all right not to disclose? A responsible citizen would find that abhorrent.”
Duncan Penny QC, for the CPS, argued the decision to bring a prosecution in any case is not automatic even if there is a high public interest, and that the family’s arguments had been met in the original review by the body.
The CPS will now have 21 days to provide evidence to prepare for the judicial review, including the evidence used to come to the decision not to prosecute.
Dorothea Jones, of anti-racism campaigners The Monitoring Group, who have been supporting the family, welcomed the decision.
Ms Jones told the PA news agency: “The granting of the full hearing is very welcome news for the family and its campaign.
“Some of our criticisms of the CPS not to charge the suspect have been recognised by the High Court.
“Our efforts to get disclosure have finally been granted and the CPS have been directed to disclose all the information they relied upon to make their irrational decision.
“We are one step closer to justice for Christopher Kapessa.”