On 15 February 2010, an Inside Out documentary was was broadcast in the East Midlands.
In the broadcast, the veteran journalist and gay rights activist Ray Gosling appeared to make an emotive but vague confession.
You can see it here.
Last week the Crown Prosecution Service announced it was advising that Mr Gosling be prosecuted for the offence of wasting police time:
"The Special Crime Division of the Crown Prosecution Service has advised Nottinghamshire Police that television presenter Ray Gosling should be prosecuted for wasting police time. Mr Gosling was served with a summons for that offence today.
"Helen Allen, senior lawyer in the Special Crime Division, said: "Mr Gosling was arrested by Nottinghamshire Police on suspicion of murder following his appearance in a television programme in which he confessed to killing a former lover who was dying of AIDS.
""He was interviewed several times by the police and detectives conducted an extensive investigation into the allegation. The police were in contact with the CPS during the investigation and a file was passed to the Special Crime Division on 28 July 2010.
""The police established that there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of proving that Mr Gosling's confession was false and asked the CPS to consider whether he should be prosecuted for wasting police time, given the amount of work they had to carry out to establish what had happened.
""After careful consideration of all the evidence I decided that Mr Gosling should be prosecuted for wasting police time and advised the police to obtain a summons to that effect. The summons for him to appear before Nottingham magistrates on 14 September 2010 was served on Mr Gosling when he answered his police bail today."
The offence for which Mr Gosling is now summoned is set out in section 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967.
The offence is as follows:
"Where a person causes any wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making to any person a false report tending to show that an offence has been committed, or to give rise to apprehension for the safety of any persons or property, or tending to show that he has information material to any police inquiry, he shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for not more than six months or to a fine of not more than two hundred pounds or to both."
The CPS guidance on when the offence should be prosecuted is here.
The relevant section reads:
"Proceedings may only be instituted by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions: s.5(3). Consent may be granted after charge but must be before a plea of guilty is entered or summary trial. Consent must be obtained before proceedings are started by way of summons.
"Examples of the type of conduct appropriate for a charge of wasting police time include:
-false reports that a crime has been committed, which initiates a police investigation;
-the giving of false information to the police during the course of an existing investigation.
"The public interest will favour a prosecution in any one of the following circumstances:-
-police resources have been diverted for a significant period (for example 10 hours);
a substantial cost is incurred, for example a police helicopter is used or an expensive scientific examination undertaken;
-when the false report is particularly grave or malicious;
-considerable distress is caused to a person by the report;
-the accused knew, or ought to have known, that police resources were under particular strain or diverted from a particularly serious inquiry;
-there is significant premeditation in the making of the report;
-the report is persisted in, particularly in the face of challenge."
The CPS prosecution decision seems counter-intuitive, and indeed it is problematic in a number of ways.
First, a piece to camera which is subsequently broadcast does not seem to me to be a "report" within the meaning of the offence.
Although the 1967 Act does not require the report to be to a police officer, for the word "report" to be extended to include such a broadcast piece seems to stretch the word to the point of meaninglessness.
Second, it is not clear that the content of what Mr Gosling said was sufficiently precise for it to be a statement "tending to show that an offence has been committed".
In fact, it seems too vague to be a report of an offence, if it is even a report in the first place.
Third, the offence requires mens rea (a guilty intention) the time the "report" is made; there is no evidence available that such an intention was present at the time of the actus reus (culpable act).
And fourth, apart from all the above, one cannot easily see the public interest in prosecuting Mr Gosling.
The last thing which seems to be appropriate in these circumstance is the use of the coercive force of the law against Mr Gosling.
It appears that this is another misconceived and illiberal decision of the CPS, an entity of course which believes it is somehow in the public interest to prosecute Paul Chambers, but did not bring any charges at all against the thug PC Simon Harwood whose assault on Ian Tomlinson preceded his victim's sudden death.
All round, the prosecution of Mr Gosling appears flawed and contrary to the public interest.
Indeed, it seems to be an injustice in the making.
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