Thursday, 21 December 2017

A Failure of Disclosure

The recent collapse of not one, but two, criminal prosecutions for alleged sexual offences has once again exposed serious shortcomings in modern policing. In the case of Liam Allan, a young university student who was facing charges of rape and sexual assault, it was left to the prosecutor, Jerry Hayes, a former MP, to blow the whistle on yet another legal scandal of our times.

If he'd been convicted, Mr. Allan could have faced a sentence of perhaps 10 or 12 years' imprisonment, followed by a lifetime on the sex offenders' list with all that entails - having to report to the police whenever he decided to spend a few days away from home or wanted to travel abroad. What's more, the likelihood is Mr. Allan would have had to endure a future life of unemployment, misery and online attacks, perhaps even physical assaults by vigilantes. Being a convicted sex offender is viewed by the public as only marginally less repugnant than being a convicted murderer.

With all this at stake, the DC in charge of the so-called investigation, Mark Azariah, decided that numerous text messages sent by the complainant, which made it abundantly clear that it was she who was the actual 'sex pest', should not be disclosed to the defence or, indeed, to the CPS. The police were in possession of thousands of messages sent by the accuser to Mr. Allan and to mutual friends and it was clear from these communications that the beleaguered defendant had been besieged by requests from her for sex and, even more pertinently, that any sexual activity in which he had engaged with her had been consensual.

Yet, the officer in charge apparently didn't consider any of these messages relevant to the case; which beggars belief. Either this is a case of total and utter incompetence by the police officers involved or it can be construed as something more sinister. All we can hope for is that the inquiry set up to look at the case's handling will be able to establish the truth of why Mr. Allan was let down in such a serious manner. The fact is we now know he should never have been charged and certainly not left to languish on police bail for nigh on two years.

In the same week we learned about Isaac Itiary, 25, who was charged with eleven crimes, including rape involving an underage girl, who had his claims that he thought she was an adult dismissed out of hand by the police. Had they bothered to check the accuser's messages, they would have learned that she was, indeed, claiming to be 19 years of age. (It doesn't bear contemplating that the police were aware of these messages and chose to ignore them. That stated, would any of us be surprised?) Poor Mr. Itiary had to spend four months in prison on remand because of - let's look favourably on the police approach - this incompetence.

Senior barrister and former adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Levitt, observed this week that the police m.o. of believing all complainants and immediately assuming them to be victims might conceivably be damaging the justice system in this country. We should get her on BBC's 'Mastermind', specialist subject 'the Bleeding Obvious'.

As I've stated time and again recently, it is NOT the police's job to believe either the complainant or the accused, it is their job to investigate 'without fear or favour', just like they didn't do when 'investigating' the allegations of a grubby, greedy misfit who accused me in 2012 of supposedly touching him up in a shower room. The officer in charge believed the insidious, unscrupulous claims from the off and disregarded any evidence which weakened the prosecution case. As journalist Richard Littlejohn would say, 'you couldn't make it up'. As a result of this, I, too, was deprived of two years of my life and have never received an apology. I'm not holding my breath.

It would be imprudent to consider the three cases to which I have referred as merely isolated but rather come to the conclusion that they are indicative of a serious problem in our justice system. If reports are correct, there are another 30 cases pending which are being reviewed to ascertain whether vital information has been suppressed by investigating officers.

This very week a number of solicitors and barristers have come forward to share their experiences of similar flaws in previous prosecutions. They claim that non-disclosure is widespread and I'm not in the least surprised. I dread to think how many innocent people are now sitting in prison cells or, having spent time at Her Majesty's Pleasure, are now unemployable, bereft of hope and happiness, living in constant fear.

In any just, fair society, non-disclosure is a very serious abuse of power. Anyone accused of a sex crime, whether modern or historical, has a mountain to climb anyway and this just makes the task even more difficult. In my case it was I on my own up against a police incident room team with their almost unlimited state resources. This will be the same for anyone else accused of a sex offence. The preposterous mantra 'victims will be believed' continues to wreak havoc across our justice system. Let's be clear about this - any one of us could be accused of a sex offence and so have our life needlessly wrecked.

A biased, unfair approach by investigating officers certainly benefits and encourages those liars, fraudsters and fantasists who drag innocent people through the court system. These people are driven to make their spurious allegations by pecuniary benefit or cruel revenge or simply a need for attention in their hitherto miserable, unproductive lives. They have absolutely nothing to lose and a hell of a lot to gain and don't they know it!

Do we citizens really have to remind the police that they are bound by law to investigate all allegations impartially, as opposed to attempting to obtain a conviction at all costs? It seems we do.
Don't the police realise that, in the eyes of the public, there are few more heinous crimes than sexual assault and that it is therefore incumbent on them to investigate all allegations thoroughly and fairly, so the innocent are protected? It seems not.

So, Messrs Allan and Itiary- and a whole host of other innocent people - will all have to contend with the impact of an unfortunate, indelible online footprint which will continue to shadow them for as long as they live. To exacerbate matters, the liars who attempted to wreck their lives will enjoy life-long anonymity. And, no doubt, the spewing forth of hatred, spite and bile from the ill-educated internet mob will persist, regardless of the accused's innocence and acquittal, because in modern day UK just to be accused is enough for the untutored rabble to spit poison and threats of violence.

As Christmas approaches, we could well be advised to spend a few moments thinking of the myriad innocent people spending time in jail for sexual offences on the word of some monstrous liars and fantasists, aided and abetted by the biased 'investigative' procedures of the police. All this shames Britain.

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