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Our expert Actions Against the Police lawyers secured a four-figure settlement for a woman whose chance for justice was ruined after the police lost her witness evidence, causing her rape case to collapse just days before it was due to go to trial.
Our client, Ms D, endured two years of abuse from her boyfriend between 2009 and 2011. When she began seeing a new partner, she found the courage to speak up about what had happened to her and made the difficult decision to go to the police. She gave a video statement at Cleveland Police Station.
However, failures in police procedure meant that her original video interview was lost. Having already provided an account when she first reported the abuse, she was then required to give a second video statement several months later.
By this point she had received 10 weeks of counselling and was beginning to come to terms with her experience. Reliving her ordeal again caused her considerable trauma – and because of the time that had elapsed and the difference in her mental state it also meant that there were discrepancies between her first statement and her second.
This loss of evidence would have devastating consequences. Just days before the trial was due to begin, the Crown Prosecution Service told her she could not pursue prosecution. The discrepancies between the notes of the first lost interview and the actual video of the second one meant there was no realistic prospect of conviction.
The trial collapsed, and Ms D lost out on any hope of seeing her attacker brought to justice. The Avon and Somerset Constabulary conducted an investigation into what had happened but were unable to establish how the original video and any copies came to be lost.
Ms D contacted our Public Law team, who were able to show that her rights under the European Convention or Human Rights had been breached. The police admitted there was a flaw in the process for securing video evidence and agreed to pay Ms D a settlement of £7,500.
Fiona McGhie, an expert public law solicitor in our Bristol office, represented Ms D. She said:
"Losing this vital evidence was an inexcusable error. It amounted to a breach of our client’s human rights as well as a breach of the state’s duty to effectively investigate when a credible allegation of rape is made.
"It takes a tremendous amount of courage for any victim of abuse to come forward and relive what happened when giving evidence. For Ms D to have to do this twice and still not get the opportunity to see her case brought before a judge is something she is unlikely to ever get over.
"We welcome Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s confirmation that a major review of process has resulted in the implementation of new measures for safeguarding video evidence."
"We hope the lessons learnt in this case are shared with other police forces to prevent the same mistakes being repeated elsewhere."
Ms D said of her experience:
"It was terrifying but I knew it was the only way I would ever have closure and be able to begin to put everything behind me.
"I was prepared to relive everything again if it meant gaining justice – but just days before the trial I was told the case had to be discontinued. I feel like I will never be able to fully move forward with my life as I have been robbed of the opportunity to see justice done. It has been an emotional nightmare.
"Nothing can change my situation but I hope that improvements are made to protect video evidence by police forces across the country. I wouldn’t want any other victim or vulnerable witness to go through the same horrific ordeal as me."
If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment or negligence because of police conduct, visit our Actions Against The Police page to see how we can help. You can also contact our Public Law and Human Rights experts on the team page.
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