A piece in today’s Times, emphases are ours:
A teenage schoolboy has been cleared of rape after his lawyers uncovered key evidence that proved his innocence but was missed by police and prosecutors.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has publicly blamed police officers for not discovering thousands of social media messages that proved the 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was not guilty.
He was expelled from school after his arrest by Leicestershire police in 2016, when he was 15, [J4MB: The year before he’d have taken GCSEs] and is the youngest victim of the disclosure scandal engulfing the CPS.
Yesterday the prosecution offered no evidence after deciding that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction. Not guilty verdicts were entered for the 14 charges against him, which included rape against two complainants, sexual assault and sexual activity with a child.
The boy was cleared after the defence found 233 pages of Facebook messages that proved his relationship with the girl of the same age was consensual.
The prosecution had told the defence there were no relevant social media records but yesterday said that this was what they had been told by police.
The defence found the messages in October and say they passed them on to the prosecution then. The CPS claimed that they did not receive them until November. The girl was reinterviewed then and the case was reviewed.
However, the CPS notified Leicester crown court in December that it would be pushing on with the case. Only after further reviews did it drop the case.
Katya Saudek, for the defence, told Judge Nicholas Dean, QC, that she would write to the director of public prosecutions calling for an investigation into the case, which she said had been dogged by catastrophic failings.
Yesterday’s decision comes after a string of rape trials collapsed because of late disclosure of evidence. A review of all rape cases is under way by the CPS after The Times revealed that four trials had collapsed after crucial evidence was disclosed at the last minute.
The review began last month, shortly after this newspaper reported the collapse of the case against Liam Allan, 22, a criminology student accused of rape. Police had failed to disclose texts from a woman that proved his innocence.
Following the decision to drop the case yesterday, a spokesman for the CPS said: “We have a duty to keep cases under continual review. In March 2017, as part of the charging decision, the CPS requested that police investigated social media interactions, but were informed that no messages existed. As a result of new material made available to the CPS in November 2017, further reviews of the case were undertaken.” [J4MB: So why did the CPS notify Leicester crown court in December 2017 that it would be pushing on with the case?]
A Leicestershire police spokesman said: “Social media investigations were carried out but initially nothing was found that had a bearing on the case. [J4MB: In plain English, either the police didn’t check social media records, or if they did, they ignored them.] However, when further information later came to light it was acted upon immediately. We are committed to reviewing the circumstances of this case.”
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