The Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service paid £600,000 in compensation to a teenage witness whose identity was revealed to gang members.
The 16 year old boy witnessed a violent attack and agreed to provide a statement with the proviso that his identity was kept confidential over fears of reprisals. In what the CPS rather euphemistically describe as a fall "below our accepted standard", details of his identity were revealed to the defence, which led to threats against him and his family. The Met initially denied that a breach of confidence had occurred — the family's solicitor told the BBC:
"Through a series of individual and systemic failings, his name and address were revealed to the criminal gang and the family began to experience a campaign of harassment and intimidation, and when they brought their concerns to the attention of the Metropolitan Police it was denied that their identity had been revealed."
The family were forced to go into a witness protection programme, leaving their jobs, friends and homes behind.
The Met recently announced that they are targeting London's gang crime at the same as attempting to deter teenagers from gang culture and the subsequent 500 arrests. As anyone with even a passing interest in policing and crime will tell you, it's not just about the arrests, it's about the convictions, and witnesses are a vital part of this. If potential witnesses can't trust the police and the CPS to take their safety seriously then the process falls down.
Tunde Banjoko, founder of young people's charity LEAP, recently told the Guardian that community groups are better placed to tackle gang crime while Claudia Webbe, chair of the Met's independent advisory group for Trident says that anti-gang strategies risk alienating young people where trust should be built.
A Met spokesperson said:
"The Metropolitan Police Service aims to always provide victims and witnesses with the support they require. When we get it wrong we acknowledge it with those involved and if appropriate provide compensation."