9 Feb 2013

CPS to look at treatment of abuse victim who killed herself

The Crown Prosecution Service says it will look again at the care given to acclaimed violinist Frances Andrade, who killed herself after giving evidence against her abusers.

The 48-year-old mother of four died of a suspected overdose at her home in Surrey less than a week after reliving her teenage suffering at the hands of her former choirmaster Mike Brewer 30 years ago.

Brewer and his ex-wife Kay, both 68, were yesterday convicted of indecent assaulting Mrs Andrade while she was a pupil at Chethams School of Music.

The victim’s son Oliver said she had been “traumatised by the hostile agressive and unrelenting questioning” from the defence barrister and was not impervious to being repeatedly called a liar and a fantasist.

The trial judge, Martin Rudland, said on Thursday that the defence barrister had been “perfectly proper and correct in her examination of all the witnesses in this case”.

Today the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, called for an investigation, saying something serious had gone wrong.

The shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, said some of the blame lies with the government’s failure to appoint a Victim’s Commissioner until December last year, after leaving the post vacant for more than a year.

Frances Andrade

In a statement today, the CPS said it had “confirmed on a number of occasions with Mrs Andrade that she wanted to proceed and we were not aware of any suggestion that she was reluctant to do so”.

The statement went on: “At no stage did we suggest she would be compelled to give evidence. The professionals involved – including a specialist rape prosecutor, Witness Care Officer and Counsel – were clear that Mrs Andrade made a fully informed decision to proceed in the trial.

“The CPS policy is clear that victims are not prevented from seeking pre-trial therapy and the CPS never advised Mrs Andrade to avoid such therapy.

“Prosecution counsel met Mrs Andrade shortly before the trial. A witness care officer was available to speak to the victim and a court familiarisation visit was offered.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our deepest sympathies go out to the family of Frances Andrade. We know that going to court can be intimidating, that’s why vulnerable victims and witnesses now receive more support than ever.

“We have a range of special measures in place to support victims and witnesses which include giving evidence by live video link and a screen around the witness box.

“Last year we appointed Baroness Newlove as the new Victims’ Commissioner to ensure victims’ and witnesses’ voices are championed at the heart of government.”

Brewer, of Selly Oak, Birmingham was cleared of raping Mrs Andrade when she was 18 but convicted of five counts of indecently assaulting her at the age of 14 and 15.

Kay Brewer, of Rossendale, Lancashire, was cleared of aiding and abetting the alleged rape but convicted of one count of indecent assault. Both have been remanded in custody awaiting sentence.