NATIONAL: Urgent review of all rape cases as key digital evidence is withheld

Stock image of police outside Portsmouth Crown Court. Picture Ian Hargreaves  (180012-1) PPP-180401-171246006
Stock image of police outside Portsmouth Crown Court. Picture Ian Hargreaves (180012-1) PPP-180401-171246006

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EVERY rape and serious sexual assault case in England and Wales is to be reviewed ‘as a matter of urgency’.

In an unprecedented move the Crown Prosecution Service has taken emergency action following the collapse of a number of trials.

Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, warned the overhaul could see a ‘number of cases’ dropped, causing delays in the court system.

It comes after two recent cases in which men accused of rape had spent two years on bail before they were cleared by evidence which had not disclosed.

Last week Oxford student Oliver Mears, 19, was cleared of rape after spending two years on bail. The CPS and Surrey Police, who handed over evidence just days before the trial, were heavily criticised for adding ‘completely unnecessary’ delays in the case.

A case against Liam Allan, 22, also collapsed in similar circumstances. He was accused of rape – yet police were found to be withholding vital messages which proved the criminology student’s innocence.

Ms Saunders, who is the most senior prosecutor in England and Wales, said: ‘The CPS and police have a vital role in ensuring there is a fair trial process in place to protect the public. Proper disclosure is a fundamental part of this.

‘The steps we have already taken, along with the measures we have announced today, are aimed at tackling the deep-rooted and systemic disclosure issues which are of great concern to us all.’

She added: ‘Inevitably, bringing forward these case reviews means it is likely that there may be a number of cases which we will be stopping at around the same time.’

Last year there were 3,671 people in England and Wales who were charged with rape, according to official figures. It is unknown how many people were charged with other serious sexual offences.

Today the CPS admitted the move to review rape cases is to help heal public confidence in the judicial system.

A CPS spokesman said: ‘Disclosure issues are systematic and deep-rooted. In recent years the challenge of discharging out statutory duties has been made more difficult than ever before by the widespread use of mobile phones and other communication devices.’