TV star ‘feared police bodycam footage’
The tragic suicide of a popular reality television host in the UK has sparked fierce debate over whether an assault case should have been pursued against her given her mental state.
Caroline Flack, 40, was found dead in her London home on Saturday while awaiting trial over an alleged assault on her 27-year-old boyfriend, Lewis Burton.
The former host of the hit Love Island dating show had denied the charges, and Burton also did not support the trial.
But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had chosen to press ahead with the case, prompting savage criticism from Flack's management team following her death.
"In recent months Caroline had been under huge pressure because of an ongoing case and potential trial which has been well reported," Francis Ridley, from Money Talent Management, said in a statement.
"The CPS pursued this when they knew not only how very vulnerable Caroline was but also that the alleged victim did not support the prosecution and had disputed the CPS version of events.
"The CPS should look at themselves today and how they pursued a show trial that was not only without merit but not in the public interest. And ultimately resulted in significant distress to Caroline."
FLACK FEARED BODYCAM FOOTAGE AIRED IN COURT
Friends of Flack told The Sun that she had been "terrified" bodycam footage of her arrest would be shown in court.
But mental health charities and psychologists say there is rarely one factor to blame in such cases.
Police were called to Flack's home in London's Islington at 5:25am on December 12 following reports a man has been assaulted.
Ambulance workers said they treated two people at the scene and took one person to hospital. The man was not seriously injured, police added.
A statement from Flack's management confirmed police had attended her address following "a private domestic incident" and she was "co-operating with the appropriate people to resolve matters". The next day, she was arrested and charged with assault.
At her court hearing on December 23, prosecutor Katie Weiss alleged Mr Burton had called emergency services and told the operator: "She tried to kill me, mate".
"He is almost begging the operator to send help. She calls him an a*****e repeatedly," she said.
"He had been asleep and had been hit in the head with a lamp. His face was covered in blood."
Ms Weiss said Mr Burton had told the operator: "I've just woken up, she has cracked my head open".
"Both were covered in blood and in fact one of the police officers likened the scene to a horror movie," she added.
Flack pleaded not guilty to the charges and Mr Burton, who supported her in court, insisted he was "not a victim".
"He is not the victim, as he would say, he was a witness," his lawyer, Paul Morris, told the court.
But Ms Weiss said: "Mr Burton is a victim, he received significant injury to his head".
'BE NICE TO PEOPLE'
British media reported on Monday that Flack had self-harmed during the December 2019 row and was taken to hospital for urgent treatment. She was treated for 12 hours before being interviewed by officers, sources close to her legal team told The Sun.
Friends of hers told the newspaper she had been "tormented" by the idea that footage showing her distressed would be played in a courtroom.
Her family's legal team said the case was a "one-off incident" and her boyfriend "wasn't a frightened victim."
In October last year, the star had written on social media that she was in a "really weird place" and finding it "hard to talk about".
"I guess it's anxiety and pressure of life … Be nice to people. You never know what's going on. Ever," she said on Instagram.
Friends and colleagues have made heartfelt tributes following her death, including one from her friend Mollie Grosberg who spent Valentine's Day there to keep her company.
In an emotional tribute posted the day after her death, Mr Burton acknowledged Flack's struggles with mental health and promised to "ask all the questions" and "get all the answers".
"I will be your voice baby. I promise I will ask all the questions you wanted and I will get all the answers. Nothing will bring you back, but I will try make you proud everyday," he said.
Flack's bail conditions had prevented her from having any contact with Mr Burton before her trial, which was scheduled for March 5.
But Mr Burton said he'd "kept asking" for contact.
"I know you felt safe with me. You always said I don't think about anything else when I am with you and I was not allowed to be there this time. I kept asking and asking," he wrote.
View this post on Instagram
My heart is broken we had something so special. I am so lost for words I am in so much pain I miss you so much I know you felt safe with me you always said I don’t think about anything else when I am with you and I was not allowed to be there this time I kept asking and asking. I will be your voice baby I promise I will ask all the questions you wanted and I will get all the answers nothing will bring you back but I will try make you proud everyday. I love you with all my heart 💔
CPS EXPLAINS DECISION
The CPS has refused to comment on the case, but published a statement on its website explaining how it decided whether to charge an individual with a criminal offence.
"We do not decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence - that is for the jury, judge or magistrate - but we must make the key decision of whether a case should be put before a court," it said.
"Every charging decision is based on the same two-stage test in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
"Does the evidence provide a realistic prospect of conviction? That means, having heard the evidence, is a court more likely than not to find the defendant guilty? And is it in the public interest to prosecute? That means asking questions including how serious the offence is, the harm caused to the victim, the impact on communities and whether prosecution is a proportionate response."
The statement added that there was "guidance for prosecutors" when dealing with a domestic violence case where the complainant did not support a prosecution.
"It provides guidance on the information required to understand why a complainant may withdraw support and the different options that should be considered, including proceeding without the complainant's support if other evidence is available."
ITV PLANS TRIBUTE
Flack was a popular presenter and one of the hottest talents on UK television. She began her career hosting children's TV shows, but then moved on to host I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! and The X Factor.
She won the 2014 season of Strictly Come Dancing - described as the "biggest show on telly" - and then hosted five seasons of the raunchy dating show Love Island.
In January, Flack was due to host her sixth season of the show - where young, attractive contestants compete to find love on an island - but stood down following her arrest.
"In order not to detract attention from the upcoming series I feel the best thing I can do is stand down for series six. I want to wish the incredible team working on the show a fantastic series in Cape Town," she said.
ITV cancelled Saturday and Sunday's episodes out of respect for Flack's family, and said it would return on Monday night with a tribute.
"All of us are absolutely devastated," it said in a statement.
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Questions have previously been raised over the level of care given to participants on the show, after two former stars killed themselves in 2016 and 2017.
Flack's death has also stoked vicious criticism of the British tabloid press, which had covered the assault case.
On Monday afternoon (local time), more than 500,000 people had signed a petition calling for new laws to prevent media from "knowingly and relentlessly" bullying a person, whether they're a celebrity or not.
"We'll never truly know all of the things that were going on in Caroline's mind when she took the decision to take her life. But we do know that sections of the media were quite happy to drag her life through the wringer purely in order to sell a few more papers and it's just not right," the petition for "Caroline's Law" states.
The petition comes amid a wider debate over press intrusion, anxiety and social media in the UK.
In October last year, Prince Harry accused the media of a conducting a "ruthless" bullying campaign against his wife, Meghan. Press intrusion is one of the major reasons cited for their decision to step back from royal duties in pursuit of a quieter life in Canada.
"Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences - a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son," he wrote in an official statement.
The issue was also raised by popular presenter Philip Schofield when he came out as gay recently after 27 years of marriage.
"You never know what's going on in someone's seemingly perfect life, what issues they are struggling with, or the state of their wellbeing," he said, while also paying tribute to his wife and daughters.
"My family have held me so close: they have tried to cheer me up, to smother me with kindness and love, despite their own confusion.
"Yet I still can't sleep and there have been some very dark moments."