Mother plans to launch legal action over decision not to prosecute boy, 14, over death of son, 13


The mother of a schoolboy who died after being pushed into a river plans to launch legal action against the CPS after it decided a 14-year-old boy would not be prosecuted for the death.

Christopher Kapessa had been with a group of young people before he was pushed into the water and drowned in South Wales on July 1 2019.

The 13-year-old was found in the River Cynon, near Fernhill in the Rhondda Cynon Taff. 

Despite police finding evidence that Christopher – who did not know how to swim – was pushed in, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute.

Christopher’s mother Alina Joseph, 39, believes institutional racism led the CPS to make this decision, which she is fighting to have reversed.

The mother told The Times: ‘If Christopher had been a white boy and the suspect black, I definitely think it would have been a different outcome.’   

Ms Joseph’s lawyers will ask for a judicial review of the CPS decision not to prosecute when the case goes to High Court on Thursday. 

Concerns were raised early on by Christopher’s family, who said police had told them within a day that Christopher’s death was not suspicious – after four out of 14 youngsters at the scene were interviewed. 

Christopher Kapessa (pictured with his mother Alina Joseph),  had been with a group of young people before he entered the water and drowned in South Wales on July 1 2019

Ms Joseph, who works as a bus driver for Stagecoach, told BBC Wales that she believes the investigation into his death ‘would have been very different’ if he were white. 

The single mother of seven, who was born in Congo, moved to London in the 1990s where Christopher was born – the family moved to South Wales in 2011.

Ms Joseph told The Times that Christopher had experienced racism in his life and had even been beaten up and ‘left in a pool of his own blood’ during one incident.

Speaking of the day of Christopher’s death, his mother said ‘everybody knew he couldn’t swim’. She believed he stayed on the riverbank as other children played in the water.

The CPS wrote to Christopher’s family saying that despite ‘clear evidence’ he was pushed into the water no charges will be brought. 

In a letter to the family, the CPS said there was ‘sufficient evidence to support a charge of unlawful act of manslaughter’.

It added the suspect, a boy who is white, is ‘mature and intelligent for his age’ and had a ‘good school record’.

Christopher's mother told BBC Wales that she doesn't want revenge, just a chance for the facts of the case to be laid out in court. Pictured: Christopher Kapessa

Christopher’s mother told BBC Wales that she doesn’t want revenge, just a chance for the facts of the case to be laid out in court. Pictured: Christopher Kapessa

The letter said: ‘There was clear evidence that the suspect pushed Christopher in the back with both hands causing him to fall into the river.

‘That push was an unlawful act and it was clearly dangerous in that on an objective standard it created a danger of some harm.’

But the letter added the evidence suggested the push was ‘not in an effort to harm someone’ but ‘ill considered’.

Ms Joseph was supported by the anti-racism organisation the Monitoring Group, and made a complaint to South Wales Police over their handling of the investigation.   

The Police force then referred itself for investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), who continue to investigate but said there had been no breach of professional standards.

Christopher Kapessa, one of seven children, (pictured above) had been with a group of young people before he drowned in South Wales

Christopher Kapessa, one of seven children, (pictured above) had been with a group of young people before he drowned in South Wales

Then a week after Christopher’s funeral South Wales Police moved its major crime team onto the case – an investigation which concluded that a 14-year-old boy had pushed Christopher into the river.

Police passed the case to CPS who found that there was enough evidence for a manslaughter charge but that it wasn’t in the public interest to charge the boy for the death as CPS said no harm was intended. 

The CPS added there was ‘nothing to suggest’ it was a hate crime.

The mother told BBC Wales that she doesn’t want revenge, just a chance for the facts of the case to be laid out in court.

Ms Joseph said Christopher’s life had been disregarded as if it ‘has no value’, she added: ‘If that isn’t racism, I don’t know what is.’ 

Retired judge Ray Singh, chairman of Race Council Cymru, told BBC Wales that the decision whether to prosecute the 14-year-old boy should be made on ‘fairness’. 

Keen footballer Christopher, who could not swim, was found in the River Cynon (above), near Fernhill in the Rhondda Cynon Taff, South Wales, on 1 July 2019

Keen footballer Christopher, who could not swim, was found in the River Cynon (above), near Fernhill in the Rhondda Cynon Taff, South Wales, on 1 July 2019

Mr Singh said: ‘I ask the question, what is public interest? There are so many other mothers looking at it [the case], especially the black and ethnic minority mothers. Are we not public?’  

CPS prosecutors said they were acting in the interests of justice, not only to obtain convictions.     

South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Gilmer said: ‘Christopher’s death was a tragedy and we acknowledge that the pain and grief of that continues to this day. We also understand that Christopher’s family are deeply unhappy with elements of the initial investigation into the circumstances of his death.

‘Our Major Crime Investigations Team fully investigated and obtained accounts from all of those present at the time of his death. A file of evidence was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.

‘Two matters are currently ongoing which affect our ability to participate at this stage with the BBC Wales Investigates programme. They are the complaint against police and the Judicial Review challenge of the CPS decision.

‘Due to concerns raised by Christopher’s family, South Wales Police referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) who have examined the initial response and investigation into Christopher’s death. We welcome and value such scrutiny.

‘In addition, we are aware that the family continues to challenge the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute any person in connection with Christopher’s death. This is their right to do so and we await the outcome of this challenge. That legal process is independent of South Wales Police.

‘Both matters outlined above, prevent us from commenting on specific details which are subject of examination by the IOPC or legal proceedings before the courts.

‘We await the IOPC’s findings and remain committed to implementing any opportunities for learning arising from their examination. Christopher’s death shocked and affected many people in the local community and we continue to work closely with support agencies to ensure the right help is there for all those that need it.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk