On 13 May 2014, the former Solicitor General Sir Oliver Heald QC MP decided not to prosecute a 17 year old who, it was alleged, had intended to travel to Syria to fight, only to change his mind and come home before he got there.
The CPS currently has 29 defendants awaiting trial on Syria related terrorism offences and has already secured 15 convictions*. All of those cases required the Attorney General’s consent, which were given. Indeed, this is the only occasion when consent has not been granted for such offences.
The particular circumstances of this case meant that the decision whether or not to give permission to prosecute was finely balanced. The then Solicitor General carefully considered the details of the case, paying particular attention to the suspect’s age, immaturity and the fact that he decided to come home before actually reaching Syria, and he decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute.
The CPS concluded that this suspect had shown genuine remorse for his actions and so the most appropriate course of action would have been a conditional caution, with the condition being to engage with Channel, a counter-terrorism prevention programme. However, such cautions can only be given where the suspect admits to the offending and no such admissions were made. Being unable to offer a conditional caution, the CPS considered that a prosecution would then be required in the public interest.
*Figures correct as of 23 April 2015.