The case of R (on the application of B) v Director of Public Prosecutions (Defendant) and Equality and Human Rights Commission (Intervener) (2009) addresses the legality of discontinuing a prosecution on the basis that the victim, a person suffering from mental health problems, is not a credible witness.
B suffered an assault and identified his attacker as R. B had a history of psychotic illness, held paranoid beliefs and suffered auditory and visual hallucinations. A psychiatric report concluded that B suffered with a mental condition that “may” effect his perception and recollection of events so as to undermine the reliability of his account. The prosecution was discontinued on the basis that B could not be put before a jury as a reliable witness.
B contended that the decision was premature and irrational and that it violated his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights 1950 Article 3, namely that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. The High Court decided that the decision that B could not be placed before the jury as a credible witness was irrational. It did not follow from the medical report that the jury could not properly be invited to regard B as a true witness. The conclusion that he could not be put forward as a credible witness suggested either a misreading of the medical report or an unfounded stereotyping of B because of his history of mental problems. It was also held that there had been a violation of B’s rights under Article 3, as the decision to terminate the prosecution was humiliating causing B to feel that he was being treated as a second-class citizen. B was awarded £8,000 in damages.