Jocelyn Robson, a single parent company director, was in a relationship with Daniel Adler when that went sour. The details of what happened are not clear, but Ms Robson rounded off the relationship by scratching the word ‘CUNT’ on Mr Adler’s cars (in the plural) as well as doing some sort of damage to his coat.
As a result, Ms Robson was arrested. In her police interview she made full admissions and issued an apology. She later paid for the damage to be repaired.
What happened next?
Ms Robson and Mr Adler went their separate ways. There were no children of the marriage, and they moved out.
The police decided to charge her with Criminal Damage. This offence was, of course, made out on the facts and Ms Robson had admitted it.
Her solicitors wrote to the police inviting them to review the decision to prosecute on the grounds that it was not in the public interest to prosecute her, and a caution should be given instead.
By this point, Mr Alder quite sensibly, told the police that he did not support the prosecution (calling it a ‘waste of time’). By that time, Ms Robson had paid Mr Adler for the damage.
Notwithstanding that, the police said that that decision had been made. There was correspondence during which the police effectively said that if it was not a DV (domestic violence) case, then they would caution her, but the policy is not to caution in such cases.
After some more to-ing and fro-ing, the Police and CPS stuck to their guns. In the end the case went to the High Court.
There, as the Daily Mail reported on 5th September 2016, Ms Robson succeeded in her Judicial Review. Or, as the Mail would have it, she was ‘let off’ by the Court.
What did the Court decide?
The Court Judgment was actually in July of this year, and we have the full transcript.
What the High Court decided was that if there was a policy of never giving cautions (conditional or otherwise) to perpetrators of domestic violence then that would be unlawful. What would be needed is an element of discretion so that, in suitable cases, a case can be diverted from the Courts and dealt with quickly.
As the Court said (para 46) “There are many circumstances to be considered, not least the true attitude of the victim, the effect of the payment of compensation, which would have been the obvious primary restorative requirement, resource costs, and the desirability of an out-of-court disposal to avoid any unnecessary criminalising of a defendant. There are also other factors in this case to which it is unnecessary to refer“.
The case had therefore not been approached properly, and it was sent back for a new decision to be made, with the guidance of the Court.
We suspect that this will lead to Ms Robson being cautioned, but that is a matter for the Police and CPS.
What is a caution?
We have a factsheet dealing with this. In essence it is a formal recording of guilt against a person, but without going to Court.
Is this buying your way out of trouble?
The Mail reporting is, perhaps surprisingly, not 100% accurate. It implies that the payment of compensation by Ms Robson to Mr Adler was the prime reason for the decision to prosecute being quashed.
In fact, when you read the judgment it is clear that it is not that simple – there were a variety of other factors in the mix.
It should be noted that if Ms Robson does receive a caution, that does not mean that she is ‘in the clear’, or that she does not have a criminal record.
Although it will be ‘spent’, and won’t have to be declared, it will remain there on an enhanced check forever.
What are the wider implications?
It is a sensible decision – this is a case that clearly did not need to be prosecuted.
This was a silly lashing out by somebody of good character at the end of a relationship, who then regretted what she did and paid for the damage.
Will it make a big difference in other cases? Probably not, as most cases of hate crime or domestic violence will not be suitable for cautions.
It does raise a wider issue as to whether the current definition of domestic violence is the correct one (something I have written about before). Take the example of two adult brothers who, after drinking in a pub, have a row and one takes a swing at the other. Is is right that this would be called ‘domestic violence’ so at to preclude a caution in most cases?