Valdo Calocane: Prosecutors correct to accept Nottingham killer's manslaughter pleas, report finds

Prosecutors were correct to accept Nottingham killer Valdo Calocane's manslaughter by diminished responsibility pleas rather than pursue a murder case, the CPS inspectorate has found.

Calocane, 32, stabbed to death students Barnaby Webber and Grace O'Malley-Kumar, both 19, and 65-year-old school caretaker Ian Coates in June last year.

The attorney general ordered an urgent review into the CPS's handling of the case after families of the three victims said they were bitterly disappointed that a murder case was not pursued by prosecutors.

They also felt they had not been properly informed about the decision before it was made.

His Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) said in their report published on Monday that the CPS were correct to accept Calocane's manslaughter by diminished responsibility pleas and a good service was provided to families.

However, the report said there was room for improvement, recommending that the CPS in future provide written guidance to help police family liaison officers explain legal concepts to bereaved families.

They also suggested that the use of the word "consult" when referring to engagement with the families around the legal decision-making in this case may have contributed to a general misunderstanding of the CPS's obligations to bereaved families.

This is because there is no obligation for the CPS to "consult" victims when deciding on the evidential test of the Code for Crown Prosecutors, but rather to "inform" and "explain" their decision.

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The report said: "It is understandable why the bereaved families find the decision by the CPS to accept the pleas of not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter difficult to accept.

"Their loved ones were violently killed by an offender who knew what he was doing was wrong and who intended to kill them.

"The term manslaughter has the perception to underplay the gravity of what has taken place."

The report made two recommendations - the first that, by October 2024, the CPS must undertake a review of guidance relating to victims' engagement to ensure all staff are aware when the use of the terms "consult" or "consultation" is appropriate.

It also recommended that the government consider whether homicide should be categorised into three tiers - first degree murder, second degree murder in cases of diminished responsibility, and manslaughter.

Under such a system - recommended by the Law Commission in 2006 - the unlawful killings in this case would have been categorised as murder, albeit second degree murder, according to the report.

'Murderers can get away with murder'

Barnaby Webber's mother, Emma Webber, said she was "disappointed but not entirely surprised" by the outcome.

"Until the law changes in this country, the diminished responsibility charge and plea means that murderers can get away with murder," she said.

"We've never disputed Calocane's mental health problem, but what I would say is that, at the moment, in this country, and you have mental health problems, it is very unlikely then you are actually going to be tried for murder.

"And it is abhorrent that it can be downgraded to diminished responsibility, just because it is how the law is stated."

In response, Stephen Parkinson, director of Public Prosecutions, said: "In tragic and complex circumstances such as these, the CPS has difficult decisions to make, but must always act with independence and professionalism.

"I believe that our team did so in this case, and with considerable dedication and commitment.

"I am grateful to the Inspectorate for the care and thoroughness with which they have reviewed our actions. We will carefully consider the report's findings."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously promised the victims' families that "we will get the answers" but their calls for a public inquiry have so far gone unanswered.

Other investigations into the actions of police and mental health staff continue.