Mentally ill victim was failed by CPS

Man who had ear bitten off was judged to be an unreliable witness

A decision by prosecutors to drop a serious criminal assault case because the victim, who had half an ear bitten off, suffered mental health problems, has been severely criticised by High Court judges.

In a landmark case, the Director of Public Prosecutions was judged yesterday to have failed in his duty to protect the 22-year-old man who was awarded maximum damages of £8,000 after becoming the target of the vicious unprovoked attack in front of several witnesses. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) barrister decided not to proceed on the day of the trial in June 2007 because he believed the victim's mental illness made him an unreliable witness.

That decision was yesterday ruled to be "irrational", "unlawful" and in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Lord Justice Toulson said it had understandably caused the victim to feel, "like a second-class citizen". The CPS yesterday apologised to the victim, who can only be identified as FB, and launched an inquiry into the handling of the case.

Lord Toulson said: "The reasoning process for concluding that FB could not be placed in front of a jury as a credible witness was irrational in the true sense of the term. The decision to terminate the prosecution was unlawful, it was also irreversible."

The attack happened after the victim, now 25, tried to leave a north London cafe because he was unhappy about several men smoking cannabis while he was performing folk songs. According to FB, he was threatened with a knife before half of his left ear was bitten off. A man – HR – was charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and witness intimidation after the victim picked him out in an identity parade. It was claimed that HR put the piece of ear back into his mouth to chew it further. The victim said he experienced frequent nightmares and panic attacks as a result of the attack.

FB's illness means he periodically experiences hallucinations and delusional thoughts for which he is prescribed medication. This fact was known, but it had been agreed by all parties, including the judge, that his psychiatrist would appear in court to answer questions about his condition.

Saimo Chahal, a solicitor at Bindmans LLP, who brought the judicial review on behalf of FB, said: "The conclusion reached by the CPS was shocking and unacceptable; however it is not an isolated case. There are countless such cases before the criminal courts where vulnerable people with learning disabilities, mental health problems or indeed any psychological issues are treated as second-class citizens and their evidence is discounted."

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, said: "The way in which the CPS let this man down was simply unacceptable. As DPP, I intend to take steps to ensure that it could never happen again."

FB said: "I have been living in fear and felt that there was no justice after my case was dropped. I hope that other people do not have to go through the hellish nightmare I have been through with my case."

Fear and loathing: Disabled hate crimes

Yesterday's High Court ruling is further evidence that the CPS is failing to adequately pursue crimes committed against people with mental health problems. Campaigners say prosecutors are often reluctant to call witnesses with mental health problems because of the belief that they will come across as unreliable. But it is not just the credibility of disabled people that is all too easily ignored. Since 2005, disability hate crimes have been recognised within the criminal justice system but many believe the CPS routinely fails to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, despite the change in the law.

Last year, The Independent published details of at least 50 incidents in the past three years where the CPS declined to prosecute an attack on a disabled person as a hate crime. The cases, many of which involved physical violence, may have been successfully prosecuted but were not treated as hate crimes which would have increased the severity of the sentence, as well as making an example of perpetrators.

One example cited was that of Christine Lakinski, a physically impaired 50-year-old woman, who was urinated on by a neighbour as she lay dying on her doorstep from pancreatic failure. Even though the neighbour, Anthony Anderson, singled out Ms Lakinski because she was vulnerable, the CPS only prosecuted the case as a public order misdemeanour and not as a hate crime.

Steven Hoskin, 39, was groomed for more than a year by "friends" who recognised that a person with his mental impairment would be an easy victim. In July 2006 Sarah Bullock, 16, Darren Stewart, 30, and Martin Pollard, 21, made him falsely confess to being a paedophile, marched him to a viaduct and threw him off. Bullock and Stewart were jailed for murder while Pollard was found guilty of manslaughter, but the murder was not treated as a hate crime.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Urgently looking for Qualified Teachers and NQT's

£110 - £120 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Urgently looking for Qua...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you that teacher who c...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you that teacher who c...

IT Auditor

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: IT Auditor , Information Governance, NHS...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform