Mother given permission to apply for judicial review over son's death

Mother of boy, 13, who drowned in river gets go ahead to apply for a judicial review after CPS refused to charge teenager, 14, who pushed him

  • Christopher Kapessa, 13, drowned in the River Cynon, South Wales, in July 2019
  • A police investigation found a 14-year-old boy pushed Christopher into river 
  • His mother Alina Joseph believes institutional racism led CPS not to prosecute
  • She has been given permission to apply for a High Court review of this decision

The mother of a drowned schoolboy has been given the go-ahead to apply for a judicial review after the Crown Prosecution Service refused to charge the boy who pushed her son into a river. 

Christopher Kapessa, 13, died in July 2019 and the CPS ruled that it was not in the public interest to prosecute the 14-year-old boy who pushed him for manslaughter.  

Mr Kapessa’s mother Alina Joseph believes that if her son had been white the investigation into his death ‘would have been very different’, and her bid to apply for a judicial review was granted by the High Court today.  

Christopher Kapessa (pictured with his mother Alina Joseph),  had been with a group of young people before he entered the water and drowned in South Wales on July 1 2019

Judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said: ‘To achieve permission, there must be properly arguable grounds with a realistic prospect of success.

‘Having had the advantage of hearing argument, I grant permission to apply for judicial review.’

The boy who allegedly pushed Christopher into the water was white and one of 14 children playing on the bank of the River Cynon in South Wales, on 1 July 2019.

The CPS decision took into consideration that the older boy did not mean to harm Christopher, he was of good character and a manslaughter prosecution would impact on his future.

But mother-of-seven Ms Joseph said: ‘What about Christopher’s future? He had a good future ahead of him.

‘They’ve tried to disregard it as if Christopher’s life has no value. If that isn’t racism, I don’t know what is.

‘The decision not to prosecute sends a message to the public that you can do anything harsh to black people and you’ll get away with it’.

 Speaking of the day of Christopher’s death, she had also said ‘everybody knew he couldn’t swim’. 

Ms Joseph, a Stagecoach bus driver from Congo and now living in Mountain Ash, South Wales, claims there would have been a totally different outcome if a white child had drowned while playing with 13 black children.

She told The Times that Christopher had experienced racism in his life and had even been beaten up and ‘left in a pool of his own blood’ during one incident.   

Christopher’s mother told BBC Wales that she doesn’t want revenge, just a chance for the facts of the case to be laid out in court. Pictured: Christopher Kapessa

The single mother moved to London in the 1990s where Christopher was born, before the family relocated to South Wales in 2011. 

South Wales Police interviewed the group of children aged between 11 and 15 who were offered counselling after witnessing Christopher drowning. 

Jenny Hopkins of the CPS’s Appeals and Review Unit said: ‘There was nothing in any of the statements of the young people which suggested any racial issues or that this was a hate crime.

‘The push amounted in law to a common assault and therefore an unlawful act. This action resulted in Christopher’s tragic death and therefore there was a realistic prospect of conviction for manslaughter.

‘However, the public interest stage of our legal test was not met. Though the outcome was tragic, the evidence suggested the push was not a deliberately hostile or violent act. 

Christopher Kapessa, one of seven children, (pictured above) had been with a group of young people before he drowned in South Wales

Keen footballer Christopher, who could not swim, was found in the River Cynon (above), near Fernhill in the Rhondda Cynon Taff, South Wales, on 1 July 2019

 ‘It was a foolish act, carried out as a prank by a young boy who had not considered the full potential of the consequences. This tends to make the suspect’s actions less culpable.

‘The seriousness of the incident and its impact on Christopher’s family has to be balanced against the guidelines which state that the best interests and welfare of the young person must be considered.

‘A prosecution and conviction will have a significantly detrimental; effect on the suspect’s education, employment and future prospects.’ 

The Glamorgan Coroner is due to hold a full inquest into Christopher’s death.  

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