Dapinder Singh QC gives interview to The Times in relation to recent rape case scandal.

Rape case scandal is just ‘tip of the iceberg’

Police and prosecutors may be biased, says QC

David Brown, Chief News Correspondent | Alexi Mostrous, Head of Investigations

December 16 2017, 12:01am,
The Times

The case of an innocent student put on trial for rape because police withheld evidence is just the “tip of the iceberg”, senior barristers said last night.

Dozens of cases have collapsed in the past three years because of serious police failings over the way they handle evidence, according to an inspection report obtained by The Times.

In one case, a man accused of robbery spent six months in jail before a prosecutor found evidence confirming that he had been robbed by the “victim”, who was a violent drug dealer.

Yesterday The Times revealed that Liam Allan, 22, spent almost two years on bail and was on trial for a series of alleged rapes before police handed over text messages that exonerated him.

Angela Rafferty, QC, chairwoman of the Criminal Bar Association, said yesterday that without the intervention of the barristers in court Mr Allan “would have suffered an appalling miscarriage of justice” because of the failure of police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

She warned that the failure was “not an isolated incident” and said that police and the CPS may be “unconsciously bias[ed]” towards people who report sex offences.

Mr Allan’s acquittal comes as concern grows over a series of rape cases involving young men that have fallen apart because of fears about the quality of the evidence.

A report in July by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, seen by this newspaper, found that police and CPS staff blamed “limited resources and lack of time” for the poor disclosure of evidence.

The inspectors found that the failure to deal with issues early meant that unauthorised disclosure between lawyers, unnecessary adjournments and discontinued cases “are common occurrences”. The report said that at least 56 cases had been scrapped because of failure to disclose evidence between 2013 and last year.

More than half of the 146 cases reviewed showed “obvious disclosure issues” before the suspect was charged. In 38.3 per cent of these cases the prosecution did not deal with these issues “at all”. The inspectors said that problems with disclosure had been known for “many years” and warned that “no improvement will result and the likelihood of a fair trial can be jeopardised”.

Critics said Mr Allan’s case showed that lessons had not been learnt. Ms Rafferty said: “The case should never have been brought. Public funds were wasted, he spent two years on bail, and no good has come of it. The authorities do not appear to have learnt lessons from the joint report by HM Inspectors of the CPS and Constabulary in July 2017, which highlighted systemic failures and offered remedies.”

Dapinder Singh, QC, who specialises in complex frauds and serious crime, said the failure to disclose evidence in Mr Allan’s case may be “just the tip of the iceberg”. He added: “Disclosure is the backbone of the criminal justice system and a defence team must be able to trust the prosecution to properly discharge their disclosure duties.”

Among cases to have fallen apart recently are those of George Owen, a 21-year-old trainee accountant, who was cleared in September by a jury that took two hours to find that he had not forced himself on a 19-year-old student as they left a bar in Manchester.

The previous week, two young men were cleared of raping girls after nights out. Bartolomeo Joly de Lotbiniere, 22, a student at York University, was reported to police when he appeared on University Challenge — 14 months after having sex with his accuser. Joshua Lines, 23, was accused by a fellow student who had invited him into her bed. Both said that the sex was consensual and were found not guilty, prompting questions about why they had ended up in court.

The woman who accused Mr Allan faces investigation for attempting to pervert the course of justice. The detective involved will be questioned about the failure to hand over the vital evidence. The accuser told police that she hated sex but wrote hundreds of text messages to friends saying she was devastated when Mr Allan said that they could not meet again and discussing in detail her enjoyment of sex.

The CPS and Scotland Yard are reviewing why 40,000 text and WhatsApp messages from her phone were not handed over until after the trial had begun at Croydon crown court. Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, has apologised in a letter to The Times today for the failure to hand over the evidence earlier.

In Mr Allan’s case, the phone records were handed over only when a new prosecutor agreed to a request from the defence barrister to see any material from the woman’s phone. Judge Peter Gower said on Thursday it was clear that Mr Allan would not have been charged if the messages had been seen, and demanded an inquiry into the failure to produce them.

Mr Allan, who is in the final year of a criminology degree at the University of Greenwich, had been warned that he faced at least ten years in jail and would be on the sex offenders register for life.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman said: “We know how important it is to get disclosure right and in the light of the recent HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate report we are reviewing our disclosure policies and practices with police colleagues as a matter of urgency.”

The ‘victim’s’ messages
The woman who accused Liam Allan of rape told police that she hated sex, but hundreds of messages sent to friends during the preceding months detailed her obsession with the student and her love of sex.

The messages were downloaded by police from the woman’s telephone shortly after she was interviewed in January 2015. Police then stated there were no messages of interest to either the prosecution or Mr Allan’s lawyers.

Edited examples of some of her messages were read out in court. In a message to a friend after Mr Allan told her he was going to university she described how she had called him in a panic and begged him to see her, writing: “Honestly I was just a mess and I was like I’m asking for one last chance to show you how much you mean to me.”

Writing to a friend about having sex with another man: “After the initial pain of the train getting into the tunnel it’s not that bad, after a while it’s alright and it’s fun . . . everyone knows I enjoy it but it still hurts me to this day but no pain no gain. It’s worth it.

“It’s always nice to be sexually assaulted without breaking the law. You clearly don’t love me because you keep revoking my sexual advances, have I got to drug you.”

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Date: 18/12/2017