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Victim right of review scheme sees 146 suspects charged with offences

Alleged victims of crime can now appeal initial decisions not to prosecute

Almost 150 suspects have been charged for offences after alleged victims appealed against decisions not to prosecute them under the new right to review scheme, according to new figures.

The scheme was brought in to England and Wales last year as part of measures to improve public confidence in the justice system and allows victims to appeal against a decision not to bring charges or to discontinue a case once a prosecution has begun.

The first appeal is heard by a managing lawyer based in the region where the original decision was made. If the victim wants to pursue it further, the Crown Prosecution Service appeals and review unit or a senior prosecutor will review the case again.

Out of the 146 cases which had been successfully appealed were 80 cases of violence and 27 involving alleged sexual offences, BBC News reports.

The broadcaster said that between June 2013 - when the scheme started - and this March, 1,186 appeals were lodged, of which 162 were upheld, a success rate of 13.7 per cent.

Sixteen of the successful appeals involved cases where charges had been brought and then dropped, so a prosecution could not be re-started.

In the remaining cases, at least 146 suspects were charged with offences for which they had initially escaped prosecution.

In two cases in which charges were brought the victims had died.

One followed an alleged "road rage" incident, and the other involved a pedestrian who was hit by a car while crossing a road.

The CPS made 113,952 decisions in England and Wales which could have been reviewed, meaning less than 0.14 per cent were overturned, the BBC said.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "What we would like is for victims to be reassured that we don't routinely get cases wrong. Where we do get it wrong, we will look at them again and they can challenge it.

"So it gives them a tremendous sense of empowerment."

The process was criticised by Nicole Westmarland, Professor of Criminology at Durham University, who told the BBC: "What we essentially have is a panel of colleagues reviewing the decision of somebody who they may be personally friends with."

But Ms Saunders said: "It's wrong to say it's looked at by colleagues who may be friends. The scheme is that it will be looked at by somebody different, initially within the office, normally somebody more senior.

"It is looked in accordance with the code, so very professionally. There is a second right to review as well, so if the victim is still not satisfied with that initial one the second right is that it goes to our headquarters division which is very separate from all the areas."