The Crown Prosecution Service decided it was in the public interest to charge Caroline Flack with assaulting her boyfriend, despite initially deciding just to caution her.
The 40-year-old Love Island star killed herself on February 15 2020, two days after prosecutors decided to press ahead with the case against Flack, who was accused of hitting her boyfriend with a phone as he slept in December.
Her inquest at Poplar Coroner’s Court heard on Wednesday that Flack subsequently suffered a deterioration in her mental health, and her family had major concerns about the impact the prosecution was having on her.
Lisa Ramsarran, a deputy chief Crown prosecutor, told the inquest case handlers examined evidence including Mr Burton’s 999 call, injuries he sustained at the scene, and a summary from Flack’s interview with police before deciding to caution her.
However, the police appealed.
Ms Ramsarran said: “I understand the police did not feel this (a caution) was a suitable disposal in this case.
“I think there was a suggestion at first she hadn’t hit Lewis Burton over the head, then that he had been reading text messages on his phone which she felt confirmed her suspicions of his fidelity.
“Caroline’s version of events was that she had tapped Mr Burton on the head, firstly on the leg to wake him up, then in a flicking gesture made contact with his head at a time when she still had her phone in her hand.
“She was surprised thereafter to see an injury that was then bleeding.”
She said the Crown Prosecution Service’s legal manager subsequently “came to the view that a caution was not an appropriate disposal”, and that there was sufficient evidence – and it was in the public interest – to authorise a charge of assault by beating.
Ms Ramsarran said Mr Burton “made it clear from the outset that he was not supportive of the prosecution” against his celebrity partner.
Flack appeared in court for her first appearance on December 23, and was due to stand trial in March.
Ms Ramsarran said that at the time of Flack’s death, the case had been “kept under continuous review”.
She added: “We had recently considered an ‘abuse of process’ argument submitted by Caroline’s legal representatives.
“A further review had been conducted and we had written to the defence to confirm that we would be continuing with the prosecution.”
She confirmed that decision was communicated by email on February 13.
Flack met with her legal team to discuss the case the following day – amid suggestions, her friends said, that she thought the case was being dropped. She hanged herself on February 15.
Ms Ramsarran told the inquest prosecutors looked at Flack’s mental health when the case was first reviewed, including evidence the television personality self-harmed at the crime scene when she allegedly assaulted Mr Burton.
She was later assessed in the psychiatric unit of a hospital, but told medics she was not suffering from mental health issues at the time, Ms Ramsarran said.
She added: “Her risk was deemed at that time to be ‘low’.
“It was confirmed there was no suicidal ideation or thoughts of self-harm.
“That report was prepared by psychiatric liaison nurses within the hospital where Caroline was taken.”
The inquest is due to conclude on Thursday.