Mother awaits ruling on decision not to prosecute over son’s death in river

Christopher Kapessa, 13, was allegedly pushed into the River Cynon near Fernhill, Rhondda Cynon Taff, by a 14-year-old boy in July 2019

Christopher Kapessa died in Rhondda Cynon Taff in July 2019 (South Wales Police/PA)
Christopher Kapessa died in Rhondda Cynon Taff in July 2019 (South Wales Police/PA)

The mother of a boy who died after allegedly being pushed into a river is waiting for a ruling by judges after challenging a decision not to prosecute the teen accused of being responsible.

Christopher Kapessa, 13, was allegedly pushed into the River Cynon near Fernhill, Rhondda Cynon Taff, by a 14-year-old boy in July 2019, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to charge the teenager, saying it was not in the public interest.

Christopher’s mother Alina Joseph, from the Cynon Valley, has launched legal action against Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill, who heads the CPS.

She challenged the CPS decision at a hearing in London on Thursday, but lawyers representing the CPS said the challenge should be dismissed.

Two judges said they would deliver a ruling on a date to be fixed.

The defendant’s decision fails to properly value human life, specifically the child victim’s life

Michael Mansfield QC

Barrister Michael Mansfield QC, who led Ms Joseph’s legal team, told Lord Justice Popplewell and Mr Justice Dove that the decision not to prosecute the “suspect”, who is now 17, was “unreasonable or irrational”.

Mr Mansfield argued the decision was “unlawful” and “ought to be quashed”.

He said Ms Joseph wants to “understand fully what had happened to her son” and to “see justice done according to that truth”.

He added: “The defendant’s decision fails to properly value human life, specifically the child victim’s life.

“The defendant fails to give proper regard to the seriousness of harm from the offence.

“Undue and improper weight has been given to the impact of a prosecution upon the future of the offender.”

Mr Mansfield said the message the decision sends out does not inspire confidence in the justice system.

He said evidence exists to provide a “realistic prospect” of conviction for manslaughter.

The High Court judges said they will make a ruling on a date to be fixed (Nick Ansell/PA)

Judges heard a number of youngsters were at the scene.

Mr Mansfield said there are 16 video interview statements from witnesses.

Christopher had expressed concern about his lack of swimming ability and had been “unwilling to enter the water freely”, he said.

He added: “The suspect pushed him deliberately into the water.

“Christopher drowned and was killed as a result.”

Mr Mansfield said Ms Joseph had given detail of the information she had received in a witness statement.

He told judges: “This sets out the history of misinformation to her from the investigating prosecutorial authorities since her son’s death and concerning the events: the original source of being told her son had jumped, or had slipped, rather than being pushed appearing to have emanated from the suspect and the untruths spread by him and his immediate friends, including the lies told to the police.”

Mr Mansfield said Christopher and his family had been “relatively new” to the area and were a black family living in a predominantly white community.

Duncan Penny QC, who led the CPS legal team told judges, in a written case outline, the decision at the centre of the case had been taken by Moira MacDaid, a specialist prosecutor.

Ms MacDaid had concluded, after a review, the original decision not to charge the suspect with manslaughter was correct, he said.

Mr Penny said Ms MacDaid had considered all relevant evidence with “scrupulous fairness”.

He said her decision that a public interest test “was not met” was neither irrational nor “undermined by any error of law”.

Mr Penny said Ms Joseph’s claim should be dismissed.

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