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."

PA

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

    Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

    Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

    Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

    Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick