The prosecutor who pursued an assault case against TV presenter Caroline Flack before her death has defended his decision – and says he had “never heard of her”.
Ed Beltrami, 52, said he decided to continue with the trial after Flack’s boyfriend, Lewis Burton, dropped his assault complaint against her because he was concerned about what could happen to Burton.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) at the time was widely blamed by the public – and Flack’s management – for being a trigger for the Love Island presenter taking her own life three weeks before the trial was due to begin in February.
Mr Beltrami, who was north London’s chief crown prosecutor at the time, told Wales Online: “The facts of this case were the guy had made his complaint, he had phoned the police, he was terrified he was going to be killed, he’s been hit over the head with a weapon, namely a lamp, he’s got a cut to his head, and she’s made an admission to the police at the scene.
“So in the general principles of domestic abuse you say: ‘Well I’m going to proceed without the victim because I’ve got the admission, I’ve got the complaint from the victim which I’ll try to get in, I’ve got the physical evidence of the cut to the head and the mess in the flat which has been filmed by the police’.
“But obviously when you make that decision to proceed with the case you have absolutely no idea that the defendant is going to take her own life. You can’t possibly anticipate that sort of thing.”
Mr Beltrami, who recently became Wales’ chief crown prosecutor, added that he “had never actually heard of her” when the case came to him.
The CPS was accused of wanting a show trial or for only prosecuting Flack because she was famous, but Mr Beltrami said “there aren’t very many prosecutors who want a show trial”.
“Most just want to get on with their job,” he said.
“The CPS doesn’t really attract that sort of person.
“Supposing we had made a decision not to proceed, which we could have done, and she goes back to live with the boyfriend and she loses her temper again on another occasion, hits him a bit harder with a lamp or with something else, and he dies. How would that look then?”
“You don’t just fold at the first sign of trouble.
“The fact that the victim doesn’t want to know. You’ve got to look at whether you can prosecute without the support of the victim.
“Domestic abuse is a separate category by itself – high risk, high risk of repetition, high risk of the offending escalating – so you have to look at that.”
Mr Beltrami admitted that whatever decision a prosecutor makes, one side is likely to be upset, but they have to use the law and some empathy to come to a decision as to whether a trial should go ahead or not.
And he said there is an issue with public perception of the CPS in that most people think it is part of the police and they are there to try to prosecute every case.
“But it’s actually a much more nuanced position,” he said.
“Conviction is not necessarily the aim. You’re not there to convict everyone.
“What you’re there to do is secure a just outcome in the case so it may be perfectly proper to bring a case, the evidence is there, you bring the case fairly, you disclose to the defence any material that undermines your case, they defend their case robustly, the case goes to a jury, and the jury acquit. That’s justice.”
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