The following article was published on 6 June in the online “Metro”. It features the cases of two exonerees whom we continue to support, as well as numerous others, all of whom have been victims of a manifest systemic failure long overdue for correction. By way of context for the remarks attributed to Ms Saunders, the outgoing DPP, a former DPP acknowledged in a recent Newsnight (BBC2, 5 June 2018) interview that the resulting miscarriages of justice were likely to number in the thousands. (For more on this please follow this link)
The disclosure of vital evidence could mean the difference between someone being jailed or walking free.
An urgent review into disclosure this week revealed that nearly 50 rape cases went to court without vital evidence being given to defence lawyers in January and February. Man caught on CCTV ripping cross off woman’s front door while delivering curry The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said 47 rape and serious sexual assault cases were dropped during the first six weeks of the year because of police or prosecutors failing to disclose evidence. Of those, 14 people were kept in prison awaiting trial before their cases were dropped.
The review was called after a string of rape cases collapsed in January when it emerged vital evidence had not been passed to defence lawyers. It has now called into question how many people are in prison because evidence was withheld.
Collapsed cases: The trial of Liam Allan was halted at Croydon Crown Court on December 14 when it emerged the officer in charge of the case failed to find key evidence on a computer disk containing 40,000 messages that revealed the alleged victim had pestered him for ‘casual sex’.
The prosecution of Isaac Itiary collapsed at Inner London Crown Court a few days later when it was found police had held on to a series of text messages which proved his 15-year-old alleged rape victim had repeatedly lied and said she was 19.
The following month the case against Samson Makele, 28, was halted at Snaresbrook Crown Court after his defence team unearthed key photos which showed him and the complainant in his case ‘cuddling and smiling’ in bed. His defence team had previously been told that the mobile phone would not be made available by the CPS.
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 after a diary which supported his case was uncovered. This sparked the national review by prosecutors of all live rape and serious sexual assault cases to see how many were affected by the same issues.
Sam Hallam: Released after serving seven years in prison
Following a long legal battle by his family, 24-year-old Sam Hallam (pictured, above) was released in 2012 after serving seven years in prison. Hallam, of Hoxton, east London, was just 18 when he was jailed for life for the 2004 murder of Essayas Kassahun in a gang attack. He was released by the court of appeal that heard both the Metropolitan police and the Crown Prosecution Service withheld evidence. The CPS withdrew all opposition to his appeal. Sam Hallam was released after serving seven years in prison in 2012 (Picture: PA)
Robert Brown: Released after serving 25 years in prison
Robert Brown was realeased in 2002 at the age of 45 after serving 25 years for the murder of 51-year-old Annie Walsh – a woman he maintains he never met. Brown – who described his time behind bars as ‘an abyss of hell’ – protested his innocence from prison throughout his sentence. He was released by the court of appeal after evidence of police corruption, bullying and non-disclosure of vital evidence came to light. The court heard Greater Manchester Police withheld an important piece of forensic material from his defence team.
Petruta-Cristina Bosoanca: Trial collapsed after 13 months in custody
Petruta-Cristina Bosoanca’s case collapsed after she spent more than a year in prison, during which time she even gave birth behind bars. She was held on trafficking and prostitution charges but her trial was dropped on its 17th day after the judge found her defence team had been repeatedly told that medical evidence did not exist – when it did. This repeated failure to properly disclose the police doctor’s report was, said the judge, ‘one of the more serious failings identified in this case and requires further explanation’. A senior prosecutor apologised to the court and said the CPS’s handling of the case had ‘fallen below standard’.
Conrad Jones: Released after six years in prison
Conrad Jones spent six years in prison for supposedly bribing a witness in a murder trial before being exonerated by police surveillance evidence. He was acquitted by the court of appeal in 2014 of conspiring to pervert the course of justice during a murder trial into the 2005 death of Clinton Bailey in Coventry. In 2016, the CPS agreed to pay more than £100,000 in compensation to Jones after it was acknowledged that the police surveillance evidence, which they failed to disclose, showed it would have been impossible for Jones to have committed the crime. Jones was found guilty in 2007 of intimidating a witness to the murder trial in an attempt to prevent her from giving evidence. He was said to have bribed and threatened her at a face-to-face meeting in Nottingham on 1 or 2 June 2006. But his appeal found the CCTV proved he could not have been in Nottingham on either of those two days. Overturning his conviction at the court of appeal in 2014, Lord Justice Pitchford said: ‘We can only regard the failure to make the disclosure in early 2007 that was subsequently made in June 2013 as a lamentable failure of the prosecutor’s obligations.’
The sexaul assault case dropped at magistrates’ court
Earlier this year, defence lawyer Abu Kibla told the BBC he made six requests to the CPS for CCTV evidence that went on to clear his client following a complaint of sexual assault by a 17-year-old girl. The man – a teacher – was accused of groping the girl in a shop. He was told by police the shop CCTV was of poor quality. But Kibla said the footage, which he finally obtained three weeks before the scheduled trial, proved his client had no physical contact with the girl. ‘You can see he’s standing there selecting a sandwich; nothing untoward happened, so clearly a massive piece of evidence, integral to the whole case,’ he said. At magistrates’ court, the case was dismissed with no case to answer, citing the footage as the reason.
Of 3,637 cases reviewed, disclosure was of concern in 47 cases, the CPS said, and these cases were discontinued. CPS chief Alison Saunders has apologised for the failings, telling the Commons justice committee that disclosure was a ‘longstanding systemic issue’ that the CPS and police had failed to properly tackle. The director of public prosecutions said: ‘Getting disclosure right is a fundamental part of a fair criminal justice system. ‘Our analysis shows that in the vast majority of cases we are doing that. ‘But there are cases where we are falling short, and that is unacceptable. ‘I recognise the huge impact on individuals involved, and deeply regret every case where mistakes have been made.’ A new National Disclosure Improvement Plan will see new training for prosecutors and police officers, measures to deal with disclosure at an early stage in legal proceedings and better technology to help investigators sift through vast amounts of communications data.
Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/06/many-innocent-people-prison-evidence-withheld-defence-lawyers-7609325/?ito=desktop.article.share.top.twitter?ito=cbshare
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