A second piece in today’s Times:
Liam Allan had planned initially to take a law degree but later decided to study criminology because he was interested in the wider aspects of the criminal justice system.
Four months into his course at Greenwich University the 19-year-old student from Beckenham, south London, who had never been in trouble with the police, was to get a brutal lesson in the failures that can lead to innocent people being convicted. He was warned he faced up to 20 years in jail after a woman he had previously known, who cannot be identified, accused him of a series of brutal rapes and sex assaults over a 14-month period.
He turned for help to a local solicitors’ office where he had completed work experience and relied on the police investigation to collect the evidence. He was cleared of all charges yesterday when it was revealed that detectives had failed to reveal evidence from the woman’s telephone that proved his innocence.
“I can’t explain the mental torture of the past two years,” he said. “You are all on your own. I could not talk to my mother about the details of the case because she might have been called as a witness, I couldn’t talk with my friends because they might have been called.
“I felt completely isolated at every stage of the process. I feel betrayed by the system which I had believed would do the right thing, the system I want to work in.
“I couldn’t go out there and get the evidence to show I am innocent — I relied on the police to do that. I didn’t know they had [the complainant’s] telephone records. I assumed they must have been deleted.”
After his arrest Mr Allan was allowed to continue his degree course but he was suspended for two months from his part-time job in the retail sector, which funds his studies. “I told everyone what had happened,” he said. “I knew I had not done anything wrong.”
For 14 months there was no news. Then in March police told him he was being charged with six rapes, three assaults by penetration and three sexual assaults.
There was the fear of prison but also an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and the belief that he would let down his family and friends.
“I am a strong person but prison is not something I could cope with. It would not be a normal prison, I would be placed with sex offenders,” Mr Allan said. “I kept thinking about what would happen to my mum if I went away, what would happen to my flatmates who would have to pay all the rent on their own. I am the person they all turn to for support but I would not have been around.” He said he feared there had been an “over-compensation” by police and prosecutors for failures in the past to investigate and charge celebrity sex offenders. “Because of mistakes in the past they seem to want to do everything you can to get a conviction. Conviction rates have become like sales targets.
“The view seems to be to charge everyone and then if they are found not guilty it is the jury’s fault, the public’s fault.” His mother, Lorraine Allan, said outside court yesterday: “The jury would have expected that they would have been told of anything significant. It would have been Liam’s word against hers. I knew the truth.”
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