Ben Gurr for The Times
The trial of a criminology student accused of rape collapsed yesterday when it was revealed that police had failed to reveal evidence proving his innocence (David Brown writes).
Liam Allan, 22, spent almost two years on bail and three days in the dock at Croydon crown court, south London, before the trial was halted.
Yesterday the trial judge demanded a review of disclosure of evidence by the police and warned of the risks of a “serious miscarriages of justice” after hearing that prosecutors were not handing material to defence lawyers to save costs.
Allan had been warned that he would be jailed for at least 10 years if found guilty after being charged with six rapes and six sexual assaults against the same woman. The woman, who cannot be named, told police that she had been repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by Allan and did not enjoy sex.
Allan, from Beckenham, south London, insisted that the sex was consensual and told officers the woman was acting maliciously because he would not see her again after he started university.
The court was told that his lawyers had repeatedly been refused access to records from the woman’s phone because police had insisted there was nothing of interest for the prosecution or defence.
When a new prosecution barrister took over the case the day before the trial started he ordered police to hand over any telephone records and found that they had a computer disc containing copies of 40,000 messages.
They showed that she continued to pester Allan for casual sex, told friends how much she enjoyed having sex with him and discussed her fantasies of being raped and having violent sex. Jerry Hayes, the prosecuting barrister from Goldsmith Chambers in the Temple, told the court yesterday that the Crown would offer no evidence.
“I would like to apologise to Liam Allan. There was a terrible failure in disclosure which was inexcusable,” he said.
Hayes, a former Tory MP and criminal barrister for 40 years, said: “There could have been a very serious miscarriage of justice which could have led to a very significant period of imprisonment and life on the sex offenders register. It appears the [police] officer in the case has not reviewed the disc, which is quite appalling.”
Radhia Karaa, a district crown prosecutor, wrote to the court admitting that the handling of the telephone downloads “has fallen below the standard that we expect”.
Judge Peter Gower formally found Allan not guilty of all charges. “There is something that has gone wrong and it is a matter that the Crown Prosecution Service, in my judgment, should be considering at the very highest level,” he said.
“Otherwise there is a risk not only of this happening again but that the trial process will not detect what has gone wrong and there will be a very serious miscarriage of justice.
“He [Mr Allan] leaves the courtroom an innocent man without a stain on his character.”
The judge said that the police must tell prosecutors of all material collected during their investigations.