The High Court has expressed concern about how much care the Crown Prosecution Service takes in reviewing decisions after intervening in what judges called a 'troubling case'.
Lady Justice Nicola Davies and Mrs Justice Farbey quashed the decision of a reviewing lawyer made in October not to prosecute a police officer for causing death by dangerous driving and/or causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving following a pursuit in 2016.
The judgment, handed down last week, states that the review decision was made by barrister Frank Ferguson, head of special crime, deputy head of the special crime and counter terrorism division.
The judges said the review decision was in response to 'the detailed and analytical letter sent by solicitors acting on behalf of the family of Lewis Johnson, which followed a careful, detailed and analytical decision of the CPS. In our judgment, the review decision should have responded in kind to such detailed, focused analysis. It did not. Further, in giving reasons for an adverse decision, the reviewing lawyer should have identified the significant parts of the evidence which had been viewed, read and considered. The review letter failed adequately to do so'.
Describing the case as 'troubling', the court said Johnson's family was concerned why no prosecution for any offence would take place in respect of the officer's driving, and judges did 'not underestimate [the officer's] own anxiety in respect of any possible charges arising out of this pursuit which resulted in a fatality'.
The judges said: 'It is clear to the court that the IPCC [Independent Police Complaints Commission] and the first CPS lawyer demonstrated care and thoroughness in seeking to analyse the driving of the moped and the police vehicle before reaching any conclusions in respect of the same. For the reasons given above we find that the reviewing lawyer did not bring to his task that same care, thoroughness and detail. We are conscious that a broad commonsense approach should be taken to the reasoning in a review decision, but when statements are made which are not easily identifiable in the evidence, that is a matter of concern. It is also reflective of the wider concern which the court has as to the care, thoroughness and detail which went into the writing of this review decision.'
The matter has been remitted to the director of public prosecutions for a review decision to be made by a different lawyer.
A CPS spokesperson said: 'The judicial review focused on the contents of the letter the CPS sent to the family and concluded that our explanation of the decision was insufficient. The decision itself had involved detailed consideration of multiple sources of evidence including CCTV, the account of the independent police driving instructor, van driver and causation.
'We are reflecting on the judgement carefully to make sure we are giving appropriate details when we communicate the outcome of our decisions to victims and bereaved families. The case will be reviewed again by a lawyer with no previous involvement in the matter. Our thoughts remain with Mr Johnson’s family.'