Blog - The Verdict
MSB Solicitors Liverpool
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 00:00

Rape trial collapses after police fail to disclose

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The Government wants to cut Legal Aid by up to 30% in the most substantial criminal cases where there are thousands of pages of evidence to be considered.

This is the latest in a long line of cuts. The last time legal aid rates were increased for criminal cases was in 1992. Twenty five years ago. Neil Kinnock was the Labour leader and only political nerds had heard of Tony Blair. Lisa Stansfield had the Christmas number one single.

I can hear some of you cheering already. Grasping lawyers lining their pockets by getting lowlife off serious offences. But behind that stereotype lies a very different truth, as was revealed in the case of Liam Allen earlier this month.

Liam, a 22-year-old criminology student, faced up to 10 years in jail after being accused of raping a fellow student in 2017. His trial was halted at Croydon Crown Court last week and the judge, Peter Gower, called for a review of disclosure of evidence by the Metropolitan Police, as well as an inquiry at the Crown Prosecution Service.

It is understood that some 40,000 texts sent by the complainant, that left no doubt of Mr Allan’s innocence, were not disclosed by police working on the case. Now, Scotland Yard is said to be carrying out an "urgent assessment" after the prosecution collapsed due to the late disclosure of evidence which ultimately undermined the case.

Most of my clients have never previously been in trouble with the police. Most are in work, have families and live law abiding lives. Some even vote Tory. They include:
•         A taxi driver accused of making a homophobic remark to a passenger
•         A teacher accused of altering a form for the local council amounting to a forgery
•         A young lad celebrating his 18th birthday given a wrap of drugs by his mates
•         A nurse accused of drinking and driving
•         A doctor accused of possessing indecent images on the family computer
•         A company director accused of defrauding the taxman
•         A young man defending his mate in a fight outside a pub accused of GBH
•         A mother falsely accused of sexually assaulting her son 50 years ago
All denied these offences. Most of them were at risk of losing their jobs and some were at risk of prison. All were acquitted and are grateful for a Legal Aid system that meant that ordinary people of modest means could be represented by skilled, properly qualified lawyers at their hour of greatest need when their family life, careers and even their liberty were at risk.

Any experienced criminal lawyer could tell you hundreds of these life stories. Most of you never get to hear about them. Your neighbours are unlikely to tell you about their experiences when the full force of the state takes aim at you and the criminal justice system takes over your life.
The Legal Aid system was the fourth pillar of the welfare state, created in the same post war era as the NHS, our modern state education system and the welfare system.

Now it is at risk of destruction and even opposition politicians are silent. There are no votes in defending Legal Aid.

And this Government still wants to savagely cut the number of firms nationwide carrying out criminal Legal Aid work. More than two thirds of existing firms will be wiped out and their staff will lose their jobs.

When you, your partner or child needs us next time, we will not be there to help if this government forces through its plans.

Welcome to the brave new world of the criminal justice system. And let’s thank our lucky stars that there are still old fashioned , honourable men and women (both prosecuting and defending) who strive every day to make a broken system work.
Last modified on Wednesday, 03 January 2018 14:36
Sean Sexton

Sean was one of the founding partners of MSB Solicitors.
Twitter handle: @seansexton58

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