Decision not to charge two doctors over gender-based abortions was right, DPP Keir Starmer says


The decision not to prosecute two doctors accused of arranging abortions based on the sex of an unborn baby remains the right one, the country's top prosecutor has said.

In a letter to Attorney General Dominic Grieve, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said he was sure the decision was "properly taken and sound".

The letter comes as the Crown Prosecution Service published more detailed reasons for the decision not to prosecute the two doctors for attempting to procure a miscarriage unlawfully.

Last month Mr Starmer said he would make the detailed reasons public after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called for "urgent clarification" on the decision.

An undercover investigation by the Daily Telegraph last year involved secretly filming doctors at British clinics agreeing to terminate foetuses because they were either male or female.

After reviewing the case, the CPS decided it would not be in the public interest to prosecute.

Jenny Hopkins, deputy chief Crown prosecutor for CPS London, said previously that the fact the abortions had not actually taken place influenced the decision not to proceed, saying a relevant factor was that the General Medical Council was already involved and had the power to strike doctors off the register.

In a letter clarifying the detailed reasons behind the decision, Mr Starmer said: "In preparing the more detailed reasons, I have taken the opportunity to assure myself that the decision was properly taken and sound.

"In doing so, I have reconsidered the public interest factors for and against prosecution. I remain of the view that the decision not to prosecute is the right decision on the facts of these cases."

In his letter to Mr Grieve, he said the cases were "by no means clear cut".

The law does not expressly ban gender-specific abortions, he said, but prohibits any abortion carried out without two medical practitioners deciding the health risks of continuing with a pregnancy outweigh those of termination.

He said in this case it would not be possible to prove that either doctor authorised an abortion on gender-specific grounds alone and the only basis would be that they did not carry out a sufficiently robust assessment of the risks to the patient's health to allow them to decide whether the risks in continuing the pregnancy outweighed those of termination.

But he said that was a narrow basis for a prosecution and the evidence was not strong.

"The narrow basis of any potential prosecution and the weakness of the evidence are relevant to the approach taken to the public interest in prosecuting these cases," he said.

"The question in these cases is not whether a prosecution is required in the public interest on the basis that these doctors authorised a gender-specific abortion. That cannot be proved.

"But the very different question of whether a prosecution is required in the public interest on the basis that these doctors failed to carry out a proper health risk assessment on the 'patient' before authorising an abortion."

He said it would be difficult for a jury to assess what an "adequate" assessment by a doctor was, and there was a risk that different juries would reach different decisions on the same facts.

He said both doctors had been referred to the General Medical Council's interim order panel and each had conditions imposed on their registration.

"Having consulted the GMC, it is clear that the council will investigate these cases," he said, adding that although it had no criminal powers, it was arguably more appropriate for a professional disciplinary body to evaluate the proper approach doctors should take in the cases than for a criminal court.

Mr Starmer said ultimately it was not in the public interest to prosecute the doctors, but that did not mean criminal proceedings would not be brought in future cases involving abortions allegedly procured on the grounds of gender.

"The outcome in these cases should not be taken as an indication that criminal proceedings will not be brought where an abortion is procured on gender-specific grounds," he wrote.

"These cases have been considered on their individual facts and merits and there might be powerful reasons for a prosecution in the public interest in such circumstances."

He added: "I appreciate that others may disagree with the decision arrived at in this case, but I am content that the decision not to prosecute on the facts in these cases was the right decision."

Mr Grieve said after discussions with Mr Starmer he was satisfied that he had taken the decision "properly and conscientiously".

He said: "I welcome the reconsideration that the Director of Public Prosecutions has given these cases.

"After the discussions I have now had with the director, and seeing the documents he has published today, I understand that the question in these cases was not whether this was a gender-specific abortion, but whether the doctors made a proper, considered medical judgment.

"This was a difficult decision, and different prosecutors may have come to a different conclusion, but it is not for me to say whether it is the right or wrong decision.

"It is for the DPP to make his decisions independently and based on the individual facts of the matter. However, following our discussions, I am satisfied that the director has taken this decision properly and conscientiously."


Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    English Teacher

    £85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

    English Teacher

    £100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

    Foundation and KS1 Teacher

    £100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Foundation and Key Stage 1...

    Geography Teacher

    £100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Temporary Teacher of GEOGRAPHY ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments