You may have seen in the news recently, the sad suicide of Eleanor De Freitas. The background of the circumstances is that the young woman made a complaint of rape but the Police and CPS found that there was not a realistic chance of a successful conviction as she had reported the rape some time after the event so no forensic evidence was available. The case was closed.
The father of Ms Freitas stated that his daughter had accepted the decision and moved on with her life. The alleged defendant then bought a private case, costing over £200,000, against Ms De Freitas saying that she made up the rape.
Mr De Freitas is asking the CPS to explain why they continued the charge of perverting the course of justice against his daughter despite being told by officials that there was no evidence that she had lied, and in the knowledge that she suffered with a psychiatric illness. It is the CPS that decides whether a claim should be taken to Court based on the evidence available and whether the case in the public interest.
Ms De Freitas took her own life in April 2014, three days before the trial was due to start. She left a note for her family describing her fear of giving evidence as the reason she took her life.
There are serious implications for the reporting of rape cases if the victims are fearful that they become the subject of legal proceedings.
The lawyers working for the CPS were informed by the Police detective who investigated the allegation that there was no evidence that she had lied and they would not be investigating Ms De Freitas for perverting the course of justice.
It could be argued that the CPS breached the Human Rights Act – the right to life – by failing to adhere to their own code and consider whether there was a public interest in prosecuting Ms De Freitas. It does not appear that the CPS took into account her vulnerable mental state.
There may well be concerns about someone who has been accused of rape being able to bring a private case against the complainant as it allows that individual to use the law to potentially intimidate their accuser.