Nearly FIFTY rape and sex attack cases have been halted after vital evidence was withheld from defence, CPS reveals following urgent review amid collapse of several high profile trials
- Review of sex cases was launched after a series of rape cases collapsed
- CPS today announced it found 47 cases that had been hit by disclosure issues
- Police chief admits: ‘We cannot allow mistakes to impact on people’s lives’
- Stopped cases were spread all around the UK with 23 in London
Concerns are growing over how rape prosecutions are handled after a CPS review found 47 sex crime cases in which vital evidence was withheld from defence lawyers.
A national review was launched earlier this year after a number of rape cases collapsed in quick succession when it emerged that police and prosecutors had failed to pass key information to defence teams.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced today that issues with disclosure had been identified in 47 cases in England and Wales that were reviewed between January and mid-February.
These included five where disclosure was the primary reason why the case had to be stopped.
A review of ongoing sex cases was launched after cases against Liam Allan (left) and Isaac Itiary (right) collapsed. In Mr Allan’s case, a computer disk containing 40,000 messages revealed the alleged victim had pestered him for ‘casual sex’. In Mr Itiary’s case, text messages proved a 15-year-old alleged rape victim repeatedly lied and said she was 19
In the remaining 42 there were additional reasons including communications data such as text messages, emails and social media being examined too late; a failure to get material from third parties such as medical or social services records; or new evidence emerging after charge.
Some 14 defendants were in custody at the time the decision was made to stop their cases.
In December and January a string of rape cases collapsed when it emerged that vital evidence had not been passed to defence lawyers.
Richard Holden, the parliamentary aide cleared of sexual assault in the most recent case to come under fire, said the prosecutions stopped are the ‘tip of the iceberg’. He is pictured with his girlfriend Charlotte Ivers
The trial of Liam Allan was halted at Croydon Crown Court on December 14, and the prosecution of Isaac Itiary collapsed at Inner London Crown Court a few days later.
The following month the case against Samson Makele, 28, was halted at Snaresbrook Crown Court after his defence team unearthed key images from his mobile phone which had not previously been made available.
And Oxford student Oliver Mears, who had spent two years on bail, had the case against him dropped days before he was due to go on trial.
This sparked a national review by prosecutors of all live rape and serious sexual assault cases to see how many were affected by the same issues.
Other cases have been hit since the review began. Two weeks ago, parliamentary aide Richard Holden blasted an ‘appalling’ police investigation after he was cleared of groping a Westminster colleague.
Today, he insisted the cases stopped by the review were just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
Mr Holden tweeted: ‘What about all the cases, like mine, where police just didn’t pursue ‘reasonable lines of inquiry’ to get evidence?’
CPS chief Alison Saunders accepted her organisation has been ‘reacting too late’ to issues when she was grilled by MPs on the Justice Committee
Where were the sex cases halted?
The issue of disclosure is affecting cases around the country, CPS figures reveal.
Of the 47 stopped cases, two were in Wales, four in the East Midlands, 23 in London and four in Merseyside and Cheshire.
A further two cases were in the North East, four were in the North West, three in the South West, two in the West Midlands and three in Yorkshire and Humberside.
The CPS said a total of 3,637 were reviewed.
Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Prior, Disclosure Lead for the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), said: ‘We’ve got to realise that this is about real people.
‘Whether that is a person reporting a matter to us, whether it be a person as a witness, or whether it be somebody accused of an offence. That’s incredibly traumatic, whatever aspect you look at.
‘We’ve got to get disclosure right. We cannot allow mistakes to impact so greatly on people’s lives as has been played out in the media over the past few months.
‘Our whole criminal justice system is based on fairness – fairness of investigations, fair trials and we have to strive and provide that for all the people who come into the criminal justice system. We have got it wrong in too many cases.’
Gregor McGill, CPS director of legal services, refused to say if any lawyers are facing disciplinary action over the stopped cases, while Mr Prior said for officers or police staff it would be a matter for individual forces.
When asked about potential compensation claims, Mr McGill said ‘Just because a case has been stopped doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone is at fault’.
Authorities repeatedly criticised over disclosure of evidence in sex cases which have ruined lives
The issue of disclosure of evidence has been at the centre of a series of botched sex offence trials.
More than 900 criminal cases were dropped last year due to a failure by police or prosecutors to disclose evidence.
The series of failures led former Lord Chief Justice, Igor Judge, to warn that juries may start to think they have not been shown all the evidence, and victims may stop coming forward.
Liam Allan, pictured with his mother, spent two years on bail after he was falsely accused of rape. Authorities later apologised to him for a series of blunders
Liam Allan, 22, spent two years on bail after being accused of rape and sexual assault while police sat on key text messages which his accuser had sent.
The Greenwich University student was eventually acquitted of the charges in December after a prosecutor discovered the full file of messages, which revealed the woman had fantasised about rough and violent intercourse.
The Met Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) later apologised after a review blamed blunders in the case on ‘a combination of error, lack of challenge, and lack of knowledge’.
Oliver Mears had a sex case against him dropped when evidence emerged at the eleventh hour
In December, Isaac Itiary was released from prison after it emerged his alleged victim posed as a 19-year-old woman and lied about her age.
Police officers had texts which showed the girl was lying about her age but only released them after he had spent four months in custody awaiting his trial.
The case against Samson Makele, 28, was then halted after his defence team unearthed vital photographs from his mobile phone which had not been made available.
Mr Makele was accused of raping a woman after they met at Notting Hill Carnival in 2016 but he always claimed the sex was consensual.
His case was thrown out after more than a dozen photographs were found which showed the pair naked and cuddling in bed.
Oxford student Oliver Mears, 19, spent two years on bail accused of raping and indecently assaulting a woman in July 2015.
But the CPS decided to offer no evidence against him in February on the basis of fresh evidence, including a diary that supported his case, which was passed to the CPS just a week earlier.
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