Prosecutors gave charging opinion for one dead man – but not the former Tory minister
By Mark Conrad | 20 June 2015
Prosecutors are under pressure to explain why they refused to give charging advice in a rape case against former home secretary Lord Brittan.
The refusal contrasts with the handling by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of the case of Arnis Zalkalns, who is suspected of the murder last year of 14-year-old Alice Gross. Her body was found in the River Brent in west London last September.
Zalkalns was found dead in October two miles away. But, despite his death, the CPS announced that police had a strong enough case to prosecute him.
“I would therefore have authorised the police to charge Arnis Zalkalns with murder if he had been alive at the time of the report” – Tim Thompson, deputy chief crown prosecutor, CPS London
The woman, known only as “Jane”, told Exaro: “There seems to be an inconsistency. Is this, once again, more about who he was rather than the evidence or case itself?
“For me, this is a very frustrating decision. I had gone to the police two-and-a-half years before he died.”
Her partner, “Michael”, said: “I am told that it is not unusual for the CPS to provide an opinion on charging on a deceased subject, for future police guidance and practice.
“The fact that Scotland Yard did not receive a CPS opinion either way is precisely why the detective we spoke to was disappointed.”
Jane alleges that Brittan raped her when she was a 19-year-old student in 1967 and before he became an MP.
The Metropolitan Police Service was investigating her allegations under ‘Operation Fernbridge’.
Brittan denied all the claims against him.
A Met spokesman said that the CPS had advised police before they interviewed Brittan under caution last July that there was not enough to prosecute. It gave the same advice after the interview.
The spokesman confirmed that the Met “carried out a further review of the case”, but did not comment about its pressing the CPS for an opinion after that, post Brittan’s death. The case has “now concluded”, he added.
Following the disappearance of Alice Gross, Zalkalns hung himself. His body was found in an area of dense woodland.
The CPS said in a statement in January on the Zalkalns case just five days after Brittan’s death: “Although Zalkalns is dead, due to the considerable public interest in this case, the CPS reviewed the key evidence, and has provided advice to assist in deciding what further investigation, if any, may be appropriate.”
Tim Thompson, deputy chief crown prosecutor for CPS London, also made the following statement:
I have received a report on the Metropolitan Police investigation into the disappearance and death of Alice Gross. The report concerned Arnis Zalkalns, and the CPS has not been asked to consider any other suspect.
It is not for the CPS to say whether or not Arnis Zalkalns killed Alice Gross – that would have been for a jury to decide – but instead to determine whether there was evidence that would have provided a realistic prospect of conviction, and therefore enough evidence to charge him with murder.
I have concluded that the evidence now available would have been sufficient to give rise to a realistic prospect of conviction for murder, applying the ‘Full Code Test’ in the ‘Code for Crown Prosecutors’.
There is no eye-witness evidence. The scientific evidence does not link Arnis Zalkalns directly to Alice’s death. Nonetheless, the evidence as a whole gives rise to a circumstantial case that would clearly meet the full ‘code’ test. Of all the people the various strands of evidence might have implicated, they in fact point towards Arnis Zalkalns: a person who has previously killed, and concealed the body of, a young woman.
I would therefore have authorised the police to charge Arnis Zalkalns with murder if he had been alive at the time of the report.
Jane wants to know why the CPS did not also reach a charging opinion over serious allegations against a former home secretary, vice-president of the European Commission and Conservative peer.
The CPS provided no explanation when asked by Exaro.
But a CPS spokesman issued this statement on the Brittan case: “At their request, we provided police with early investigative advice on this matter in July 2013. There was not at this stage enough evidence to request a charging decision, and any decisions made at this stage were investigative and operational and therefore for the police.
“Following the suspect’s death earlier this year, the police asked if we would give a view on whether or not the case might have resulted in a prosecution had the suspect still been alive. The police confirmed that the case has not reached the stage of a formal charging-decision referral to the CPS. So to say that CPS refused to make a full charging decision in this case is wrong.
“We are currently in correspondence with the police about this.”
Despite Jane’s disappointment, she said that she would still encourage those who have suffered sexual abuse to report their experiences to the police.
In separate developments revealed by Exaro this week, the Met interviewed Harvey Proctor, former Conservative MP, under ‘Operation Midland’ on Thursday.
Proctor denies wrongdoing.
And Suffolk Constabulary quizzed Charles Napier, convicted paedophile, in prison on Monday over allegations first reported on Exaro.
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