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Christopher Kapessa: Family want CPS prosecution following coroner’s ruling

THE RELATIVES of Christopher Kapessa, who tragically drowned in a river in Wales, have urged the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider its decision against prosecuting a now-identified white teenager, Jayden Pugh, following a coroner’s ruling. The coroner, Assistant David Regan, concluded that 13-year-old Christopher was deliberately pushed into the water as part of a “dangerous prank.”

Christopher’s family has been seeking justice for over four and a half years. In 2020, the CPS acknowledged the existence of evidence supporting a manslaughter charge but opted not to prosecute Pugh, who was 14 at the time, citing factors like his age and character.

This decision, and the initial treatment of Christopher’s death as an accident by South Wales Police, has been criticized by the family and anti-racism advocates. They argue that a different approach might have been taken if the racial roles were reversed, accusing both the CPS and the police of institutional racism.

Alina Joseph, Christopher’s mother, expressed her deep sense of injustice at the way the police handled the investigation. She felt victimized by what she describes as the institutionally racist practices of the South Wales Police, particularly against her as a black single mother. Joseph asserts that the coroner’s findings validate her long-held belief that Christopher was pushed to his death.

Joseph fondly remembers her son, who would have turned 18 this month, and mourns the future he was denied. Daniel Cooper, representing the family legally, emphasized the clarity of the coroner’s findings and urged the CPS to review their decision.

The inquest, lasting two weeks, heard from four children who witnessed Pugh push Christopher into the River Cynon. Pugh, now 19, claimed it was an accidental fall. Michael Mansfield KC, representing the family, argued for an unlawful killing conclusion, but the coroner chose a narrative conclusion, stating Pugh was aware of the risk in his actions.

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The coroner acknowledged the racial abuse faced by Christopher and his family but found no evidence linking his death to a racially motivated attack. David Hughes, representing Pugh, warned against labeling his client a “racist killer,” highlighting the impact of such accusations on Pugh’s adolescence.

The CPS maintains its decision was free of racial bias, with Chief Crown Prosecutor Jenny Hopkins clarifying their role and the rationale behind their decision. South Wales Police, having referred the case to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), awaits further insights from the inquest’s outcomes and the IOPC’s findings, which noted some shortcomings in the force’s handling of the family’s concerns, recommending additional training for the officers involved.

The IOPC concluded there was no evidence of less favorable treatment of Christopher’s family due to their race, but recognized the need for improved communication and sensitivity in dealing with such tragic circumstances.