A piece in today’s Times, J4MB emphasis in bold:
A judge has called for an inquiry after the trial of a student accused of rape collapsed because police had failed to reveal evidence proving his innocence.
Liam Allan, 22, spent almost two years on bail and three days in the dock at Croydon crown court before his trial was halted yesterday.
The judge demanded a review of disclosure of evidence by the Metropolitan Police, Britain’s biggest force, and called for an inquiry at the “very highest level” of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). [J4MB: Does the judge not understand that’s where the heart of the problem lies, with Alison Saunders, who (as Director of Public Prosecutions) leads the organization?] He warned of the risks of “serious miscarriages of justice” after hearing that, to save costs, material was not always handed to defence lawyers.
Mr Allan, a criminology undergraduate at Greenwich University, had been warned that he would be jailed for at least ten years if found guilty after being charged with six rapes and six sexual assaults against a woman who told police that she does not enjoy sex. Mr Allan said the sex was consensual and that the woman was acting maliciously because he would not see her again after he started university.
His lawyers had repeatedly been refused access to records from the woman’s telephone because police insisted that there was nothing of interest for the prosecution or defence, the court was told.
When a new prosecution barrister [J4MB: Note, the PROSECUTION barrister, Jerry Hayes, former Tory MP] took over the case the day before the start of the trial, he ordered police to hand over any telephone records. It was revealed that they had a computer disk containing copies of 40,000 messages. [J4MB: Left to the ‘defence’ team, the police would not have been ordered to hand over telephone records, and Liam Allan might have been convicted as a result.]
They showed that she continued to pester Mr Allan for “casual sex”, told friends how much she enjoyed it with him and discussed her fantasies of being raped and having violent sex.
Jerry Hayes, the prosecuting barrister, told the court yesterday that he would offer no evidence. “I would like to apologise to Liam Allan. There was a terrible failure in disclosure which was inexcusable,” he said.
Mr Hayes, a former Tory MP and criminal barrister for 40 years, added: “There could have been a very serious miscarriage of justice, which could have led to a very significant period of imprisonment and life on the sex offenders register. It appears the [police] officer in the case has not reviewed the disk, which is quite appalling.”
Speaking outside court, Mr Allan told The Times: “I can’t explain the mental torture of the past two years. I feel betrayed by the system which I had believed would do the right thing — the system I want to work in.” His mother, Lorraine Allan, 46, a bank worker, hugged her son as he was surrounded by friends who had been lined up to give character evidence if the trial continued.
“In the current climate, in these sorts of cases, you are guilty until you can prove you are innocent,” she said. “The assumption is there is no smoke without fire.”
Radhia Karaa, a district crown prosecutor, wrote to the court admitting that the handling of the telephone downloads “has fallen below the standard that we expect”. Judge Peter Gower found Mr Allan not guilty on all charges. “There is something that has gone wrong and it is a matter that the CPS, in my judgment, should be considering at the very highest level,” he said. “Otherwise there is a risk not only of this happening again but that the trial process will not detect what has gone wrong and there will be a very serious miscarriage of justice. He [Mr Allan] leaves the courtroom an innocent man without a stain on his character.”
The judge said that police must tell prosecutors about all material collected during their investigations. “It seems to me to be a recipe for disaster if material is not viewed by a lawyer,” he said. “Something has gone very, very wrong in the way this case was investigated and brought to court.”
Julia Smart, for the defence, said she received the details of the woman’s text messages on the evening before she was due to cross-examine her, so stayed up reading them. When she told the court what she had found, the trial was halted. She said she believed that evidence from phones was being withheld from defence lawyers to save money. [J4MB: This is outrageous. Very little money would have been saved in this case, and on the other hand the poor man could have been wrongly convicted and spent ten years in prison].
Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, has pushed to increase the prosecution and conviction of sexual offences. Rapes recorded by police have risen from 12,295 in 2002-03 to 45,100 last year but the number of rapes [J4MB: alleged rapes] referred to the CPS for a decision on charging has stayed broadly static. Of the 35,000 adult and child rapes [J4MB: alleged rapes] recorded by police in 2015-16, just over 6,800 were referred to police, [J4MB: referred to the CPS?] a fall of about 690 on the previous year, according to Rape Monitoring Group figures.
A Met spokeswoman said: “We are aware of this case being dismissed and are carrying out an urgent assessment to establish the circumstances.”
We’ve read a number of newspaper accounts of this matter, not one refers to the woman in the case being prosecuted for perverting the cause of justice, wasting police time… Cases like this surely show that a large number of men must be languishing in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, because of a criminal justice system which is making every effort to convict men, by ignoring evidence which could exonerate them.
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