Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, will stand down in October of this year. The controversial head of the Crown Prosecution Service has recently found herself under ever-increasing pressure as a series of rape cases have collapsed due to the withholding of evidence. Under her tenure critics have argued one of the central principles of English law – the presumption of innocence – has been seriously undermined due to the CPS recommendation that anyone who claims to have been abused be believed without corroborative evidence. A previous article on the BFMS website has highlighted the importance of this change. Matthew Scott, on his legal commentary blog, has emphasised the seriousness of the current situation:
Had the phone and social media records of the accusers of Liam Allan, Isaac Itiary, Samuel Armstrong, Cristina Bosoanca and others not been uncovered their accusers would have been free to lie, to misremember or to fantasise without any independent evidence to contradict them, and juries would have been free to convict on their evidence. Any trial would have been a lottery, and one in which the CPS (without the benefit of the undisclosed material) had assessed that the defendants held losing tickets. The blithe assumption that there have been no cases in which defendants have been convicted while evidence of innocence lay undiscovered or undisclosed in a complainant’s phone or Facebook account requires a good deal of wishful thinking that is certainly complacent and, frankly, borders on the ridiculous: Ms Saunders herself has been at pains to explain that it is not the practice of the police to examine electronic media in every rape or sexual assault case. It is overwhelmingly likely that innocent people must now be in prison as a result of convictions in cases where no such examinations have taken place.
It is no exaggeration to say that many people believe hundreds of individuals are now in prison for crimes they have not committed as a direct result of this principles of believing complainant’s accusations and not checking evidence that has remained undisclosed during trial.
The barrister Daniel Janner has written a damning article on Alison Saunders and the CPS in the Daily Mail drawing on his own experience. The article is entitled ‘Ex-CPS Chief Alison Saunders’ Cruel Regime Tortured My Frail Father’. His deceased father was the subject of a prolonged investigation by the police.
The entire proceedings were built on an edifice of lies.
One of the allegations against my father involved an attack in a London hotel, yet the stamps in his passport proved that at the time of the alleged incident he was actually in Australia. Similarly, a key victim was a figure called ‘Nick’, a serial accuser whose tales were at the heart of the police investigation Operation Midland, into a paedophile ring at the heart of Westminster. On further scrutiny, ‘Nick’s’ lurid stories – one of which involved an alleged assault by my father at the exclusive Carlton Club – have proved to be fiction.
The Independent has also written a critical editorial on the subject.
Whoever decided that Alison Saunders should stand down in October as director of public prosecutions – she maintains she did not wish to renew her contract – it is plain that her tenure in the office has been controversial, if not tumultuous.
…. The one signal and systemic failure of the CPS under Saunders – and many of her predecessors – is the manifest failure to ensure the duty of disclosure of evidence to defence lawyers is properly discharged. For that there can be no excuse. History is littered with famous cases of miscarriages of justice as a result of such failings, only some of which were rectified by long-delayed pardons and other remedies, and some, bathetically, arriving posthumously. It is perhaps inherent in the adversarial system that there is a bias among prosecutors towards suppression of facts unhelpful to the prospects of a successful prosecution. Still, every DPP has to ensure it is resisted, and to be responsible when it is not.
The BBC has a fairly neutral article dealing Alison Saunders’ tenure and some of the controversies that have dogged it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43614793