THE family of a nurse who was murdered by her former partner while he was on bail for raping her has won a campaign to change legal guidance.
Rape charges that are linked to murders will no longer be left on file but will be prosecuted except in the most “exceptional circumstances”, Keir Starmer, QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions is due to announce today.
The new guidelines have come about following a campaign by John and Penny Clough, whose daughter Jane, 26, was stabbed 71 times outside Blackpool Victoria Hostpial by her ex-partner Jonathan Vass in July 2010 while he was awaiting trial for repeatedly raping her.
Vass was jailed for life in October 2010 after admitting the murder, but the rape charges were left on file.
Writing in today’s Times newspaper, Mr Starmer said that the rape charges being left on file was neither an acquittal nor a conviction.
He said: “Jane’s parents felt that this was wrong. She had wanted Vass tried for rape and her murder effectively denied her justice.”
Mr Starmer said that he met Mr and Mrs Clough, who argued that overall sentence was not the only factor, and that public interest was served by bringing rape charges even when there was a murder conviction.
Outlining his revised guidance, Mr Starmer said: “In cases where an offence as serious as rape is alleged in the context of a subsequent murder, the Crown Prosecution Service should persist with the rape charges save in exceptional circumstances, even if no extra penalty can realistically be imposed.
“Although the CPS does not act on behalf of victims or their families, it is vital that we acknowledge how important it is that families feel that justice has been done.
“In this new guidance I have made it clear that prosecutors must consult families whenever a plea or conviction for murder is entered and explain to them the implications of not proceeding with other charges.
“That does not mean that the CPS will always persist with charges, but leaving charges to lie on the file will now be the exception, not the rule.”
Mr Clough, 51, a railway engineer, told The Times that he and his wife had wanted Vass tried for the rapes so that he would be treated as a sexual offender and consequently placed on the sex offenders register.
Mr Clough told the newspaper: “So far as we are concerned, he is not being treated as a sexual offender. But the fact is that Jane paid for the right to have those charges with her life.”
Mr Clough said the change would go “some way to making us think that Jane’s death has made a difference”.