Britain’s top prosecutor has come under fire for claiming there are no innocent people in jail as a result of failures to disclose crucial evidence.
Alison Saunders, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, insisted the justice system was working properly, despite a string of rape trials collapsing.
But critics condemned her as ‘complacent’ after problems with police and prosecutors handing over texts and photos to defence lawyers.
Yesterday Mrs Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, met senior police officers, senior judges and barristers to discuss concerns that vital material was not being disclosed.
Asked on Radio 4’s Today if it was possible innocent people were in prison because of disclosure failures, she replied: ‘I don’t think so.
‘Because what these cases show is that when we take a case through to trial there are various safeguards in place, not least of which the defence indicating what their defence is going to be.
‘Disclosure is a vital matter which we take very seriously, but it is clear that there are systemic issues across the entire criminal justice system. The problem we have found recently is around the ever-increasing use of social media, all the digital material we obtain.’
Last month the trial of 22-year-old criminology student Liam Allan, who was charged with six counts of rape, was halted by a judge after it emerged his accuser had sent hundreds of messages to friends which would have cleared him immediately.
Father-of-two Isaac Itiary, 25, who was charged with 11 crimes including the rape of an underage girl, walked free after phone messages supporting his claim that the girl posed as a 19-year-old were finally disclosed while he was in the dock.
Meanwhile, the rape trial of Samson Makele, 28, collapsed on Monday after his defence team unearthed key images from his mobile phone, missed by police and the CPS, which showed him and his alleged victim apparently cuddling in bed.
But yesterday Mrs Saunders suggested photos and social media accounts did not need to be fully checked in rape cases, even though such evidence was crucial in clearing Mr Allan and other defendants.
She said police were obliged to pursue ‘all reasonable lines of inquiry’ but added: ‘That doesn’t mean going into every single avenue of your life.’
Tory MP and former minister Anna Soubry wrote on Twitter: ‘Appalled at the ill-informed comments of DPP Alison Saunders. Have been longstanding problems with disclosure.
‘Those duties extend to investigation of all allegations not just a few serious offences. I fear Alison Saunders is part of the problem.’
Nick Rhodes QC, a criminal barrister and part-time judge, added: ‘Alison Saunders here displays the precise complacent attitude that lies at the root of the failures in the approach to disclosure shown by her department and the police.’
Scotland Yard has launched an urgent review of around 30 sex cases due to go to trial.
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