The Crown Prosecution Service has been dubbed the ‘Can’t Prosecute Service’ after it emerged that three suspected rioters had the charges against them dropped having refused to give their names in court. Critics said the decision risks sending a message to offenders that they can dodge justice by refusing to cooperate.
The three men, all suspected of rioting in Westminster, walked free from court last month despite refusing to give their names. They were originally ordered to stand trial next year, but prosecutors yesterday confirmed that the case had instead been “discontinued,” the Daily Mail has reported.
The decision effectively to exonerate them comes as the same time as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) faces criticism for failing to prosecute a serial burglar over nine offences – the suspect is said to have targeted a whole town in North Wales – and as a suspected rapist due to stand trial in a grooming gang case escaped to Bangladesh after police granted him bail.
The men were among a number of people arrested in November, after a protest organised by radical left wing students descended into violence and anarchy.
Around a thousand students turned up outside Parliament at midday, shouting “Tory scum, here we come!” and “No borders, no nations, free education! No borders, no nations, stop deportations!”
Senior Labour figures addressed the crowd.
Paint, smoke bombs and eggs were thrown at police and at government buildings, leading to some of the crowd being kettled by police. Several protestors then lunged at, and swore at police. The arrests were made for public order offences.
The men were held in custody for nearly 48 hours but police failed to identify them as they were not carrying any documentation – a common tactic used by militant anarchists. Appearing at a magistrates court they were accused of refusing to reveal their names when asked by a police officer, but simply smiled and shook their head when asked to reveal their identities.
Despite having no idea who they were or where they lived, Magistrate Paul Brooks then released them on unconditional bail, ordering to return in March to face trial. Yesterday, the CPS contacted the men’s lawyers to inform them that the case had been dropped. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the CPS decision was taken on “evidential grounds”.
Conservative MP Peter Bone said the men had been allowed to “thumb their noses at the law”.
“It goes against the national interest if any rioter or thug can decide to withhold their name … It would be completely wrong for them not to prosecute because these men wouldn’t give their names. It would send the wrong signal to everyone,” he added.
Peter Cuthbertson, of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said: “This is an extraordinary case, but there is now a great risk that in future criminals can avoid justice simply by keeping their names secret.
“Whether or not the defendants are guilty of attacking police, they have certainly treated the justice system with contempt. The sad truth is that violent thugs do sometimes have reasons to laugh at how feeble the justice system is … Now we see that even extracting the defendants’ names is beyond some judges.”
Chris Hobbs, a retired Met Police detective said: “The CPS seems again to have lived up to their nickname – the ‘Can’t Prosecute Service’.
“This ludicrous decision comes on the back of other judicial decisions in respect of pathetic sentencing for those found guilty of serious assaults on police.
“Frontline police, already hit by damaging cuts and constant morale-sapping criticism from the media and politicians, must sometimes wonder why they bother.”
A spokesman for the CPS said yesterday: “There was insufficient evidence that the police officers had reason to believe the defendants were acting in an anti-social manner so as to be able, in law, to demand their names.
“There was therefore insufficient evidence that the defendants had committed the offence by declining to give their names.”