Failings by prosecutors and police to disclose evidence are not only affecting rape trials but also less serious cases, lawyers revealed after a harassment case was dropped.
Paul Baden, 56, formerly of Rugby, was accused of harassing ex Julie Berriman through repeated calls and texts, with police relying on ‘unpleasant’ messages Miss Berriman had shown them on her phone.
But officers did not examine Mr Baden’s mobile, which his lawyers argued would put the messages into context, and failed numerous times to answer the defence team’s requests to see it.
Mr Baden’s solicitor, Peter Gotch, told Warwickshire Magistrates Court the case proved disclosure failings were rife across all levels of the justice system, not just crown court rape trials.
‘It has to make you wonder how many cases there are where we don’t know what evidence we’ve got,’ the Coventry Telegraph quoted him as saying.
Prosecutors had claimed Mr Baden harassed his former girlfriend after he was locked out the house he previously shared with her.
Police seized Mr Baden’s mobile after his arrest, and at his first court date in September the defendant accused the prosecution of perverting the course of justice by taking away his defence by not producing the device.
A later hearing saw a policeman arrive with the phone and allow the defence to examine it, but only with an officer present.
Given the device contained more than a thousand messages it was agreed to hand it over, but a sergeant intervened and said police needed to view it first.
On Monday, the case was eventually discontinued after Mr Gotch successfully argued the prosecution should not allow more adjournments.
Mr Gotch also accused the police of only taking photos of messages of messages Miss Berriman had shown them, rather than examining them all.
‘What the police did not do is carry out a fair and impartial assessment,’ he said. ‘They only took photographs of the ones she showed them.’
Chief Inspector Andrew Reynolds said: ‘We are committed to making full disclosure of all relevant evidence to defence teams; this is vital to ensuring justice is done and the public has confidence in the police and criminal justice system.
‘We are aware of the concerns raised in respect to this case and will be carrying out a full review of how it was handled and speaking to the officers involved. Where we identify areas for improvement we will ensure this happens.’
The issue of disclosure of evidence has been at the centre of a series of sex offence trials which have collapsed in recent months.
More than 900 criminal cases were dropped last year due to a failure by police or prosecutors to disclose evidence.
The series of failures led former Lord Chief Justice, Igor Judge, to warn that juries may start to think they have not been shown all the evidence, and victims to not come forward.
In December, Isaac Itiary was released from prison after it emerged his alleged victim posed as a 19-year-old woman and lied about her age.
Police officers had texts which showed the girl was lying about her age but only released them after he had spent four months in custody awaiting his trial.
Earlier this month, the case against Samson Makele, 28, was halted after his defence team unearthed vital photographs from his mobile phone which had not been made available.
Mr Makele was accused of raping a woman after they met at Notting Hill Carnival in 2016 but he always claimed the sex was consensual.
His case, which was due to begin next month, was thrown out after more than a dozen photographs were found which showed the pair naked and cuddling in bed.
Also this month, Oxford student Oliver Mears, 19, spent two years on bail accused of raping and indecently assaulting a woman in July 2015.
But the CPS decided to offer no evidence against him on the basis of fresh evidence, including a diary that supported his case, which was passed to the CPS just a week earlier.