Here we go again, more evidence of the incompetence and/or corruption of the police / CPS in their drive to send men, guilty or otherwise, to prison for alleged sex assaults. A piece by David Brown in today’s Times, the emphases are ours:
A judge criticised prosecutors yesterday for failing to hand over crucial CCTV evidence that helped to clear a wealthy financier of groping a woman in a nightclub.
Valentin Krzyzyk, 26, was accused of grabbing the woman’s bottom after buying £6,000 worth of Dom Perignon champagne at Cirque Le Soir in Soho, central London, in December 2016.
His defence lawyers repeatedly requested copies of security camera footage from inside the nightclub but it was not handed over until the first day of Mr Krzyzyk’s trial for sexual assault at Southwark crown court. The prosecution admitted that they had not watched the video but said they had been assured by police that it contained nothing of interest to the defence.
Narita Bahra, Mr Krzyzyk’s defence barrister, watched the five hours of footage and realised that it did not support the woman’s account.
Mr Krzyzyk was cleared of a single charge of sexual assault last month. The court heard that the woman complained to police a month after the alleged incident only because her boyfriend was being investigated over an attack on Mr Krzyzyk.
Judge Michael Bromley-Martin ordered an inquiry into the “reprehensible” late delivery of the footage and said that Ms Bahra’s persistence may have prevented a “serious risk of injustice”.
The judge said yesterday: “This seems to me to be a rather serious omission, especially as it turned out the CCTV assisted the defence. For reasons that are not clear to me, even though that CCTV footage was produced by a prosecution witness and therefore an exhibit in the case, it was not produced to the defence despite many requests for its production. It is necessary for the Crown Prosecution Service to make sure that evidence upon which they wish to rely, particularly evidence which is capable of assisting the defence, [is served] to ensure that such a failure never occurs again.” [J4MB: The CPS will doubtless mend its ways in the light of this blistering attack.]
The judge said that it was not a repeat of the failure to reveal details of unused evidence that led to the collapse of the rape trial of Liam Allan last month. “This was not a failure of disclosure, this was a failure to serve the prosecution case.”
Ms Bahra said that she believed Mr Krzyzyk would have been convicted if she had not secured the footage.
“In most sex assault cases it is usually the complainant’s word against the defendant’s,” she said. “There will rarely be another eyewitness or independent evidence, but the independent evidence in this case completely supported his defence.
“The woman in this case was very persuasive and I don’t think the jury would have believed him [Mr Krzyzyk] without the CCTV.” [J4MB: In plain English, men in such cases will spend long stretches in prison if the women is ‘persuasive’, or the man isn’t.]
The five hours of footage, apart from five seconds obscured by a passerby, showed that Mr Krzyzyk had not lifted up the woman’s skirt and patted her bottom and that she had not been left hysterical as she had claimed. Mr Krzyzyk told the court that the woman had initially made the allegation to the club’s manager because he had caught her stealing champagne from his table.
He spent a year on bail, during which he was subject to a curfew and wore an electronic tag, before being cleared.
Senior CPS officials wrote to the judge apologising for the ten-month delay in handing over the video, saying that prosecutors had been unable to play the file given to them by police. Lawyers for the CPS and Metropolitan Police also admitted that there had been an “unnecessary or improper act or omission” in failing to ensure that witnesses attended the first day of the trial.
The judge awarded Mr Krzyzyk £4,800 in wasted costs for his defence.
Scotland Yard is urgently reviewing about 30 sex cases due to go to court after the collapse of Mr Allan’s trial and the halting of the prosecution of Isaac Itiary, who was accused of raping a child, because of the late disclosure of evidence.
Samuel Armstrong, an aide to a Tory MP, was cleared of raping a House of Commons worker last month after evidence was disclosed to his defence team less than two weeks before his trial.
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