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  1. ITV Report

Metropolitan Police to review 30 sex crime investigations after collapse of two rape cases in one week

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

A major review of 30 Metropolitan Police's sex crime investigations has been launched after two rape cases collapsed in the space of a week.

The 30 cases prioritised are those already set for trial, but it is not yet known how many other cases at an earlier stage will be affected.

Scotland Yard said that every live case where the Met is in discussion with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), will be examined to "ensure that all digital evidence has been properly examined, documented and shared with the CPS to meet obligations under disclosure".

The announcement comes after a rape prosecution collapsed when vital evidence was revealed at the last minute.

A rape prosecution against Liam Allan collapsed after vital evidence was revealed at the last minute. Credit: ITV News

Liam Allan, aged 22, had been charged with 12 counts of rape and sexual assault against one woman and faced the possibility of more than 10 years in prison and a lifetime on the sex offenders' register.

But the day before his trial at Croydon Crown Court last week, police revealed 40,000 previously undisclosed text messages between the complainant and her friends which cast doubt on the case against Mr Allan and suggested the alleged victim had pestered him for "casual sex".

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Allan said: "There's clear faults and gaps in the system from start to finish."

Then, on Tuesday, another rape prosecution collapsed when the CPS offered no evidence against Isaac Itiary, who was facing trial at Inner London Crown Court charged with the rape of a child under 16, along with other offences.

Mr Itiary was charged in July 2017, but police only disclosed "relevant material" to the CPS on December 17, just two days ahead of a hearing due to take place on Tuesday.

The Met only disclosed the extra material in response to the defence case statement submitted on December 15.

ITV News understands that both of the collapsed cases involve at least one of the same officers.

Commander Richard Smith, who oversees Met rape investigations. Credit: ITV News

A spokesperson for the CPS said: "On December 17, 2017, the police provided new material to the CPS, which had previously been requested, and this was reviewed.

"Prosecutors decided that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction and we offered no evidence against the defendant at a hearing today [December 19, 2017]."

Following the collapse of the second case, the Met announced a review of the Itiary investigation as well all other live probes by the "Child Abuse and Sexual Offences (CASO) command, where the MPS is in discussion with the CPS."

Commander Richard Smith, who oversees Met rape investigations, said: "I completely understand that this case may raise concerns about our compliance with disclosure legislation given the backdrop of the case of R v Allan last week.

"The Met is completely committed to understanding what went wrong in the case of Mr Allan and is carrying out a joint review with the CPS, the findings of which will be published.

"Rape investigations are by their nature very complex, and often hinge on the contradictory accounts of the alleged suspect and the complainant about what has taken place.

"We are reviewing all our investigations, where we are in discussion with the CPS, to assure ourselves that we are meeting our disclosure obligations in an acceptable timescale based on the volume of data that some cases involve."

Attorney General Jeremy Wright. Credit: ITV News

Attorney General Jeremy Wright said that if anybody within the criminal justice system was deliberately withholding evidence that they know they should disclose, it would be "extremely serious".

He added: "We don't know if that's what has happened in these cases but we need to find out urgently."

The collapse of the prosecutions was described as "deeply worrying" by justice minister Dominic Raab.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Mr Raab said it was "absolutely right" for the Met to carry out a review, adding: "The basic principle of British justice is at stake."

He said: "The proper disclosure obligations in these two cases have not been discharged, and that is deeply worrying."

He added: "What we need to know now is quite how widespread that is and why.

"This is not a new thing. It should be made easy by technology. It's a very basic thing why it's not happening.

"I don't want to prejudice a review which is going to be under way but I do think the CPS and the police do need to have a pretty hard long look in the mirror about this."

Theresa May's official spokesman said the attorney general has ordered a review to look at disclosure processes including codes of practice, guidelines and legislation relating to sexual offences and other types of crime.

It is expected to report back in 2018.

The spokesman said: "The two cases which came to light over the past week have obviously raised some serious issues which need to be looked at in greater detail.

"The Met is carrying out work and it's important we don't seek to prejudge those reviews."

Concerns have previously been raised at the most senior level of the criminal bar that disclosure failures and lack of resources will lead to miscarriages of justice.

Prosecution barrister Jerry Hayes said police should be retrained. Credit: ITV News

Prosecution barrister Jerry Hayes said that it was the "tip of the iceberg".

"It should be every police force in the land that should be reviewing what's been going on," he said.

"We've got to retrain police officers. They used to be told at detective college, the 'three Rs' - retain, record and reveal. And they don't."

Angela Rafferty QC, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, suggested "unconscious bias" stops the police and the CPS "impartially and thoroughly investigating and scrutinising complaints in sexual offence cases".

"It should be remembered that it is not the job of the police or CPS to judge the truthfulness or otherwise of any allegation made," she said.

"The deluge of sexual allegations in the system is well known.

"If the criminal justice system is to cope and cope properly then funding must be found to ensure that there are proper investigations, a proper filtering system for cases that have no merit and a proper approach by the police and CPS to disclosure issues."