The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has confirmed that it will not be reopening the investigation into toddler Poppi Worthington’s death. The decision comes after the CPS could not find enough new evidence to press charges.
Poppi suffered multiple injuries, and was sexually assaulted shortly before she died in 2012. The case hit the headlines after a serious catalogue of blunders was exposed, resulting in important evidence being lost or ignored. Justice Jackson ruled that Poppi’s father was almost certainly responsible for her fatal injuries, though he is now unlikely to ever be charged, in large part because of the serious local authority and police failings.
Poppi’s mother wanted to have the case reopened, after three separate judgments confirmed that Poppi had been sexually assaulted before she died. She has also called out the right to remain silent rule, which she says was responsible for frustrating the coroner’s inquiry into Poppi’s case. Under the right to remain silent rule, an individual has the right to not answer a question or specific questions put to them during criminal proceedings, which include coroners’ inquests. The lawyer acting for Poppi’s mother told Sky News:
“[Poppi’s mother] was… left disappointed that Poppi’s father chose to rely on his right not to answer many questions which may incriminate him at the inquest… While she understands he was entitled to do this, she considers that the coroner’s inquiry was frustrated by this.”
The case raises important questions about evidence gathering and getting the balance right between individuals’ and defendants rights as set against the rights of victims. Whilst the right to remain silent protects another concept – innocent until proven guilty – adverse inferences can be drawn if an individual chooses not to answer a question during a hearing. There are specific instances where this applies, and certain conditions need to be met before an adverse or negative inference can be drawn.
The right to remain silent becomes even more contentious within the context of cases which have to rely heavily on verbal evidence from witnesses because other forms of evidence are either severely limited or nonexistent, like Poppi’s case.
Our heart goes out to Poppi’s mother.