Legal Page Contents:
- Be Prepared – Advice from a Criminal Defence Solicitor
- Challenging Miscarriages of Justice
- Ten Golden Rules for the Falsely Accused
- A Legal Perspective on False Allegations
- Challenging Convictions for Historical Sexual Offences
- FACTsheet on How to Cope with False Allegations
- Why It Is Too Easy For Innocent People To Be Wrongly Accused Of Sexual Abuse
- A Call for the Anonymity of Accused Individuals
- Legal Articles
Be Prepared – Advice from a Criminal Defence Solicitor
As a criminal defence solicitor practising for over 25 years, I have represented hundreds of clients at police interview in respect of a huge variety of offences ranging from low level theft to murder, complex fraud, and all manner of offences of a sexual nature.
My advice isn’t generic. It is tailored to the specific facts of a particular case and my advice to my client will depend on several factors including the amount of pre-interview disclosure provided by the interviewing officer (this varies significantly from case to case), the quality of the instruction provided by my client and the personal characteristics of the client themselves.
The starting point for all of my advice is an explanation of the police caution read to the interviewee by the officer at the outset of the interview. A bit of a mouthful, but it goes like this:
‘You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you fail to mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on at court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence’.
So, in short, you DO have the right to remain silent when questioned under caution (there are exceptions in certain terrorist cases); however that right is qualified by the warning that failing to raise a defence in interview, then relying on that defence at trial, risks the jury or determining magistrate, depending on where you are tried, being permitted to consider the reasons for your silence at the early interview stage and the reason they may attribute to that silence is guilt.
Generally there are 3 routes to go down in interview:
a. Make ‘no comment’ to all questions put.
b. Submit a written statement prepared from your instructions by your solicitor outlining the salient points of your defence, then answer ‘no comment to all questions’.
c. Answer all questions put in full.
Option (a) is advice I may give if I consider that evidentially there is insufficient evidence to charge my client. It may be that the police are conducting a ‘fishing expedition’ – attempting to obtain information from the interviewee to perhaps use against another party. Alternatively it may be that the allegation is that of an old and complex fraud and the client cannot be expected to comment properly on events involving paper transactions that occurred many years before, without access to particular documentation.
I may advise No Comment when the client cannot offer any defence; and I consider that for tactical reasons an early confession is not beneficial. As you can imagine, however, the police generally assume that where a no comment interview takes place it is because the suspect has something to hide. This is NOT however how the court will necessarily approach this situation. Sometimes the advising lawyer at the interview will give evidence at trial providing reasons for the advice. This can avert any negative inference being drawn.
Option (b) is a very useful strategy that allows inferences to be minimised or even avoided but protects the client from scrutiny that may lead to self incrimination or the incrimination of co- suspects. Additionally I may advise this course if my client is mentally or emotionally vulnerable. A prepared statement allows the lawyer and client to exercise some control over the interview process.
Option (c) is always a bit risky but frankly any defence lawyer will tell you that an interview where the suspect answers all questions put in a convincing and comprehensive manner is a very good start to defending a prosecuted case. It may very well also avoid charge as information provided can give the police facts that point away from guilt. This route does rely on proper police disclosure, and a client confident enough to feel they can stand up to scrutiny. Being accused of a crime (especially a sexual offence) and being questioned by an officer who on occasion displays bias, is not a walk in the park.
A historic sex allegation is the one offence where I very rarely advise a no comment interview. I often assume conduct of cases that are prosecuted where another firm have dealt with the matter at police station stage. I am sometimes baffled at the quality of the advice provided. A client may come to me full of denial and with pertinent information that could have been followed up by police at an early stage, but were advised by their then solicitor that as the case was old, and was based on one person’s testimony only, the case was weak and so making ‘no comment’ was appropriate. Make no mistake, a defendant CAN be convicted by a jury on the word of one complainant only, however long ago the alleged offences took place. This astonishes many clients to learn; however a sex act is not ordinarily committed in front of an audience, so offences like these fall into a category of their own.
The majority of my clients requested to attend an interview after an historic sexual allegation has been reported do so as a ‘volunteer’. This means they are not arrested as such but are entitled to a lawyer. The vast majority of my clients are very keen to deny the allegations made and can sometimes produce documentation that may undermine the testimony of the accuser. I have for example represented people who can produce birthday cards containing loving messages from their accuser or emails and texts that by their nature undermine the complainant’s credibility.
If you are accused, seek out any such documentation. In potential false memory cases try and provide as much information as possible regarding pre- and post-therapy behaviour. It may be that the ‘loving’ messages stopped abruptly post-therapy. All of these things are very important to disclose, if possible, at investigation stage.
The police are there to investigate, not judge. However, unfortunately some officers cannot help but present in interview as the prosecutor. Recently I represented a male adult interviewed in what may well be a false memory case. He gave robust and detailed responses in interview. However, the officer questioning him assumed the role of the complainant’s ‘therapist’ and seemed determined to persuade the interviewee to allow the accuser ‘closure’ by making admissions. Her questions were unfair and inappropriate and I naturally interjected several times to voice my objections – only to be threatened with removal from the interview! I wasn’t removed; however if the client had gone unrepresented he would have struggled to cope with the ridiculous questions he was being asked to answer.
The bottom line here is that if you or a loved one are required to attend a police interview, ensure you engage a lawyer experienced in dealing with sexual offences. Seek out potentially helpful paperwork and show this to your lawyer before the interview.
You are only likely to be interviewed once before an outcome decision is made, usually by a CPS lawyer. So – make it a good one and BE PREPARED.
ABV Solicitors, London
Tel: 07398 119 915
A Legal Perspective on False Allegations
Chris Saltrese Solicitors have a page dedicated to the phenomenon of false allegations. It has been produced by legal practitioners and may be helpful to those seeking to understand what false allegations are, and why they are made. Click here to visit their website.
Challenging Miscarriages of Justice
Solicitor Advocate, Mark Newby, provides a comprehensive overview of the obstacles faced in challenging miscarriages of justice and the means by which some wrongful verdicts have been overturned. Click here to read his speech given at the United Against Injustice Conference held in Liverpool, October 2015.
Ten Golden Rules for the Falsely Accused
These rules below are intended as a guide only, and intended to assist persons who have been falsely accused of a sexual offence. The rules and opinions expressed are strictly the writer’s own. The accusing person is referred to as ‘the complainant.’
1. Do treat seriously any sexual allegation made against you, no matter how apparently insignificant, or absurd and no matter if it is not reported to the police.
2. Do immediately record the fact of the complaint, that is, write down the detail, of sexual allegation made against you, as soon as you become aware of it, whether made to you directly, or to a third party. Include: Who, when, where, all the circumstances and details of the allegation(s).
3. Do prepare a timeline and detailed background statement. This is essential, in the event of any future official complaint. Include: Your connection with/relationship to, ‘the ‘complainant’, identify where ‘the complainant’ fits into your family history (if you are related). Detail any fact that may be relevant to the allegation – family rows, therapeutic assistance known to have been sought by ‘the complainant.’ Identify any reason for a motive to make a false allegation. Identify any potential witnesses who may be able to speak of your good character AND ‘the complainant’s’ character, her relationship with you etc. The timeline should identify potentially significant life events and dates of births of family/significant persons.
4. Do immediately see a solicitor who has a proven track record for handling sexual allegations – after the first complaint is made. Don’t take his or her word as to their experience as a guarantee of his/her expertise in the field. Expect to see a company prospectus naming cases that he/she has conducted. Don’t expect to see a 100% acquittal rate either. No matter how skilled your defence team, no-one can guarantee an acquittal. Place on record with the solicitor, the nature of the complaint against you and your denial. Give him/her your case timeline and background statement. This way, if a complaint is made in the future, the case is ready to go from the ‘off’ and you have a solicitor who is primed with knowledge of your case (being in receipt of the information supplied above) and ready to advise.
5. Do instruct a solicitor immediately following arrest. If an arrest takes place, you will hopefully have already identified your solicitor (as discussed above). Falsely accused persons, often naively consider it unnecessary to seek the services of a solicitor, thinking everything will ‘blow over’ or ‘come right in the end’ after the police have listened to what you have to say. Be advised, it is foolish to ‘go it alone’. No matter how intelligent, articulate or worldly-wise you are, it is always advisable to have a solicitor with you.
6. Do discuss your interview strategy with your solicitor – that is whether you are best advised to answer police questions, go ‘no comment’ in your interview or submit a pre-prepared statement. There is no hard and fast rule at this stage. Which course to take, depends upon the circumstances in each case. The writer’s opinion is that in a typical case, where the accused is a person of previous good character, that is a person with no prior criminal convictions, then provided:
(i) there has been appropriate pre-interview disclosure to inform you sufficiently of the complaint and (ii) provided you are medically fit to answer, then it is preferable to have on record a denial from the outset and an open, genuine defence response. The interview will be tape-recorded. It may be played to a jury at a later stage and you/your solicitor are entitled to a copy of it. Be aware of the legal consequences of not answering police questions. Ensure you receive legal advice on this aspect before the interview.
7. Do stay calm in interview. Listen to questions and take care with answers. If, because of the historical nature of the allegations your memory is unclear, then say so in the interview. Do not feel obliged to provide a firm answer to exploratory questions by the police interviewer that seek to probe family history, events and relationships. If you can’t remember, then say so. Frequently, accused persons are arrested with no prior warning, early in the morning, then taken to the police station and left alone in a police cell for a few hours. This course of conduct is entirely lawful. The psychological impact of this on your state of mind is obvious. You will feel alone and vulnerable. By the time of the first police interview several hours later, you will have one thought uppermost in your mind, that is, to get out of the police station. Don’t guess answers.
8. Do inform your solicitor and police of any known health issues or psychological/psychiatric learning difficulties that either you or ‘the complainant’ suffer from. Let the solicitor determine if these issues are relevant or not to the conduct of your defence. It is important that your solicitor has all the information he/she requires about you AND ‘the complainant’ as soon as possible. These issues are of paramount importance. They may be critical to the interview or preparation of your future defence. Equally, your health or other issues may affect how you give evidence, or how the jury should be directed to approach it.
9. Do be actively involved in the preparation of your defence. Don’t sit back and let things happen. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Assist yourself by assisting your solicitor. Limited funding constraints mean that solicitors do not have an infinite amount of time to spend on your case. Obtain a copy of the prosecution case (you are entitled to this) and make line-by-line comments for your solicitor who will in turn send these to counsel. Write objective comment and factual observations rather than repeating how awful you feel or how stupid the accusations are. Consider with your legal team if an expert report is required well in advance of trial.
10. Do discuss and agree the future conduct of your trial. Identify the counsel whom your solicitor wishes to use as soon as possible. Ensure you meet your barrister well before the trial. Increasingly, higher court advocates (solicitors with rights of audience in the Crown Court) are conducting serious cases in the Crown Court. Whosoever is going to represent you at trial, ask for a resume or CV. You are also entitled to receive an Advice on Evidence and to a conference(s). Ensure you understand and agree how the advocate intends to present your defence well before trial, which witnesses will be called, the cross-examination of ‘the complainant’ and how/whether you will be likely to give evidence. A final decision may only be made at trial.
This guide has been prepared for the BFMS by a helpful barrister.
This article was originally published in the Newsletter of the British False Memory Society (Vol
20, No. 1 – October 2012).
Challenging Convictions for Historical Sexual Offences
by Mark Barlow, Barrister at Garden Court North Chambers (Manchester) and the Northern Ireland Bar
Historic sexual offences are the most difficult of all miscarriage of justice cases for not only are they challenging, demanding Mark Barlow and highly sensitive, they are also highly emotionally and politically charged. The legal profession and media have, over the years, highlighted growing concerns over convictions resulting fromhistoric allegations. Over the same period the law has significantly changed and many have argued that individuals can no longer be guaranteed a fair trial. Such allegations create enormous challenges for the criminal justice process and will continue to trouble the Court of Appeal and the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in the years ahead.
In 1991 the Orkney Child Abuse Scandal rocked the nation and social workers removed a large number of children from their parents based upon allegations of satanic and ritualistic abuse. A combination of the scandalous nature of the allegations and their sheer number led to draconian actions being taken and families devastated as a result. But serious errors had been made and the allegations were ultimately said to have been false, leading to Inquiry into the Removal of the Children – The Clyde Report.
The Clyde Report led to a number of far reaching recommendations to ensure the safety of the process in child abuse allegations. In particular it was recommended:
“Where allegations are made by a child regarding sexual abuse those allegations should be treated seriously, should not be necessarily accepted as true but should be examined and tested by whatever means are available before they are used as the basis for action.” (1)
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s attention turned to various residential institutions with allegations of sexual abuse made against carers and teachers. During the period between January 1998 and May 2001, 34 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales were involved in the investigation of child abuse in children’s homes and other institutions. (2) Growing legal and media concerns surrounding the safety of resulting convictions culminated in 2002 with the Home Affairs Select Committee Report “The Conduct of Investigations into past cases of abuse in Children’s Homes.” (3) The Committee, which included Mr. David Cameron MP (Conservative, Witney) considered the conduct of these historic investigations and accepted that a new genre of miscarriages of justice has arisen from the over-enthusiastic pursuit of those allegations. In a detailed report the Committee considered the broad range of views and opinions presented to them and a number of important recommendations were made, some of which still remain outstanding today. However the real significance of their Report was the acceptance that those investigations did contribute to miscarriages and that police practices in the conduct of the investigation needed attention. These scandals reinforce the dangers that exist where a modern day witch-hunt takes hold. It was a phrase coined by the now deceased author Richard Webster in his book “The Secrets of Bryn Estyn” who noted the danger of the witch-hunt that can follow:
“There can or at least there should be no doubt that child sexual abuse is one of the most serious problems of our age, and that it is more widespread than most people are prepared to accept. But onto this palpable and disturbing reality we too have projected a fantasy. According to this fantasy those who sexually abuse children are seen not simply as human beings who have committed criminal acts but as the ultimate incarnations of darkness, evil and cruelty. So powerful has this fantasy become and so powerful has this fantasy become and so urgent is our need to rid the world of anyone who might conceivably be a pedophile that the requirement for evidence has all but disappeared. It is for this reason that the innocent are almost as likely to be arraigned as the guilty.” (4)
The dangers associated with historic offences of sexual abuse are not new and can impact
upon all aspects of our society, be it domestic, care homes, schools, voluntary organisations,
clergy, teachers and celebrities. The recent high profile publicity surrounding Jimmy Savile and the resulting police Operation Yewtree serves to remind us of the emotive issues that surround childhood sexual abuse.
There is no doubt that child abuse occurs and society’s natural reaction to such abuse is for the conviction of the offenders. However, societal and technological changes, particularly around communications mean we now live in a society where the presumption of innocence no longer exists and trial by media has ensured that those accused of such crimes, will never receive a fair trial. The understandable need to protect children ignores the dangers associated with historic allegations. In many such cases, there is no independent corroborating evidence and simply rests upon word against word. Cases involving multiple complainants create additional difficulties, through guilt by association, with issues of contamination and collusion complicating the issues before the jury. This can result in complaints being upheld that are either untrue or potentially malicious in nature, providing a fertile ground for miscarriages to happen.
In reviewing these convictions, a detailed understanding and appreciation of the criminal law and appeal procedures is required, together with a comprehensive knowledge of both the Prosecution and Defence cases at the trial. Attention to detail and a full appreciation of all the issues are essential. Never forget that an appeal can never be a rerun of the original trial. There is only one test upon which any application can be made – whether the convictions are safe.
This short article can never hope to comprehensively deal with all the issues that may arise in any review. To assist in the process an aide-mémoire is attached (below)) that sets out the core areas that commonly arise within historic cases. Whichever grounds you identify, they must be able to show that the resulting convictions are now unsafe. It may be that inadmissible and highly prejudicial material was placed before the jury, for example, inadmissible evidence such as the demeanour of the complainant or evidence of bad character. Or, that such evidence was challenged but the judge was wrong in law by allowing its admission. Such complaints fall within the ‘material irregularity’ category.
The summing up is always the foundation upon which you should start your review of the safety of the resulting convictions although, by the time the case reaches the Innocence Network UK, the legal teams should already have explored such areas. Whilst there can never be a blueprint in regard to summing up, in historic cases, the requirement that the summing up should be fair and tailored towards the Defendant, may have been destroyed by a lack of direction by the judge on important legal issues. It may even be unbalanced and bias against the accused. This is a complex and extensive area of criminal practice and in historic cases there are clear examples in the case law that can assist in highlighting possible areas to explore. Cases such as R v Joynson  EWCA Crim 3049, R v MM  EWCA Crim 1558, R v Breeze  EWCA Crim 255, R v Sheikh  EWCA Crim 2625 and R v S et al  EWCA Crim1433 clearly shows how the Court operates when dealing with such difficult cases.
An area that frequently arises is fresh evidence, the admission of which is regulated by Section 23 Criminal Appeal Act 1968 and a full and detailed understanding of its interpretation and operation is required. In many such cases, the applicant will simply not understand what fresh evidence means and this will require careful explanation. In essence, it is evidence that is admissible, relevant, credible and shows that the conviction is now unsafe. It may be fresh expert opinion evidence in relation to medical findings or forensic evidence such as DNA. If such material was available and could have been discovered at the time of the trial, it will never be fresh evidence. It is only in the most exceptional of cases that the Court would allow in evidence that was known at the time of the trial or readily discoverable. In many such cases it is where a fault on the part of the legal team can be established as being the cause for it not being presented to the jury. However, for fresh evidence to succeed, it must demonstrate that the convictions are now unsafe. In historic cases, fresh evidence is very rare to be fresh expert opinion, since most cases rest upon the issue of credibility of the witnesses and where there is no expert forensic evidence available.
Another common theme is complaints made in respect of representation at trial. This is a difficult area, requiring a waiver of legal privilege from the client. It is important to identify both the specific complaints and their credibility. R v Day  EWCA Crim 1060 states that the single test is safety. You must be able to show that the alleged incompetence led to identifiable errors or irregularities in the trial and which rendered the process unfair or unsafe.
One feature that always exists in historic cases is abuse of process given the delay in bringing procedures and a clear understanding of these principles is essential in conducting any review. The recent Court of Appeal decision in CPS v F  EWCA Crim 1844 has reaffirmed the proper test that should be applied whenever this issue arises. The earlier decision in R v MacKreth  EWCA Crim 1849 demonstrates the application of abuse of process within the context of historic care home cases. Cases such as R v Sheikh  and R v Joynson  demonstrate where the Courts are willing to hold that no fair trial was possible where important evidence was no longer available due to delay. The right to a fair trial is central to the trial process and many of these cases are decided upon their own facts. When the issue as to whether the opportunity arose to enable the abuse to happen and where credible evidence would have been available at that time, then the Courts are willing to accept that the trial process was unfair and resulting convictions are unsafe. It is an important area and should always be considered when review any convictions.
The last area concerns the process of the police investigation and issues of disclosure, for with many miscarriages the successful appeal rests upon a material non-disclosure by the prosecution. Many have argued that he changes in disclosure have been instrumental in ensuring miscarriages and therefore it is an area that you must look at extremely carefully. Never assume that material has been disclosed. Whilst reviewing the conduct of the investigation you may uncover such non-disclosure by the police. In cases that are referred tot he CCRC it is important to request that the commission conducts a review of all the unused material in the possession of the Prosecution.
In complex and large police investigations the issues of contamination or collusion must also be at the forefront of your conviction challenge and needs careful exploration. A forensic study of possible contamination needs to follow a series of steps. Firstly, establish whether the police worked to a protocol in dealing with their investigation, and then prepare a schedule setting out the key dates when statements were taken, or when the police first spoke to witnesses. Try to establish the main police investigators, the people they each will have dealt with and the possible contact both between and within these groups. The dangers of accidental contamination must be central to any such review and a useful analogy is to think of the bee, flying from one flower to another collecting pollen, but each time also leaving some behind. Remember, the strength of any conviction in a multiple complainant case is the number of complainants. If you can undermine the strengths of that argument by evidence of contamination, you shall be heading in the right direction to demonstrate that the police investigation created prejudice to a fair process. The important thing is to understand in such complex cases the unfairness can start way before the matter comes to trial.
Finally, once you have identified your grounds of appeal, the key decision is where to submit the application. In many cases there will have already been an unsuccessful appeal application before the Court of Appeal, therefore the only route is the CCRC. You cannot reargue the grounds that have already been decided by the Court of Appeal, the Commission may be willing to relook at previous argued points, but only if there is a different angle to be taken. The important point here is that your grounds have clarity, are properly presented and all the relevant material is attached. If you are asking the Commission to use their powers to reinvestigate then you need to specify exactly what you are requesting. Presentation is everything and if the Commission or the Court does not have the material required, then they cannot make a decision.
To be involved in the overturning of a miscarriage of justice is a fantastic feeling and for many lawyers it is a career highlight. However, it is also a salutary reminder that our criminal justice system can be flawed, as it is a system that relies on people and sometimes people are unreliable. For those privileged to have experienced the quashing of a conviction it provides the motivation to carry on through the many cases that are not successful and it is always the cases where convictions are not quashed that you remember. The important point is that for those who inhabit the nightmare world of being falsely convicted, the work that you are doing provides hope that the truth will one day emerge. The very nature of historic sexual offences cases means the difficulties will always be there, all that you can do is to try to get the key to the cell door.
(1) Clyde Report Page 353 Recommendations 88.
(2) Commons Hansard, 1 November 2001, col. 853 – 856 w (John Denham MP)
(3) Fourth Report of Session 2001 – 02
(4) The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt at p 537. ISBN: 978 09515922 67
Aide-mémoire by Mark Barlow
An Overview of Investigating Miscarriages of Justice – Historic Allegations
Most difficult of all miscarriages:
Demanding and highly sensitive
Highly emotive and distressing
Keep an open mind at all times
Requires all your legal skills
You must have:
Full knowledge of both Crown’s and Defence case at trial
Full knowledge of what actually happened at the trial
Transcript of the summing up
Full understanding of the law and judgements in the area of
Knowledge re sentencing practice
These types of cases cover all aspects of Society – Domestic, Care Homes, Schools, Voluntary Organisations, Clergy, Teachers and Celebrities.
Remember the only basis that a conviction will be overturned is that it is unsafe.
Whatever grounds you may have identified have to establish that it resulted in an unsafe conviction.
This requires being able to identify the strengths and weakness of the all the evidence
and to be able to overcome the strengths of any prosecution.
– Material irregularity during trial
– Poor Representation
– Misdirection on law or unfair summing up
– Points missed by everyone
– Fresh evidence
Rook & Ward on Sexual Offences
Archbold or Blackstone
Crown Court Bench Book
Stages of Investigation
- Obtain all the Prosecution papers
- Obtain all the Defence papers, written instructions, expert reports, witness statements, previous advices from trial Counsel and all advices on appeal
- Obtain the transcript of the summing up
- Obtain the transcripts of the evidence or any legal rulings
- Establish what the applicant is now saying about his trial
- Identify any complaints re legal representation
- Identify if there is any fresh evidence within meaning of s 23 Criminal Appeal Act 1968
- Remember no appeal can be a retrial
Identify your key areas – whether it is:
- Defect in trial process Defect in representation
- Defect in summing up
- Fresh evidence
- What further work is required?
Divide the team and give specific tasks to each:
- Material irregularity at trial
- Legal representation/complaints
- Legal arguments
- Summing up Fresh evidence
Common Areas associated with Miscarriages of Justice cases
Police Investigation/CPS disclosure
- Establish how investigation started
- Schedule of significant dates/events
- Disclosure issues
- Third party – SSD records etc.
Complex area of law – must show direction was wrong in law, insufficient on facts of trial, was bias against Defendant.
That the defect renders the convictions unsafe.
Delay direction and Good character. R v Percival The Times July 20,
1998; R v H  2 Cr App R 161;
Bad character/reprehensible behaviour/Cross admissibility/Separate con-
sideration R v H  EWCA Crim 2344
Complaint evidence s 120 CJA 2003
Distress evidence R v Venn  EWCA Crim 236; R v Keast  Cr
L R 748
Assumptions direction R v MM  EWCA Crim 1558; R v D 
EWCA Crim 2557, R v Breeze  EWCA Crim 255.
Contamination see s 107 CJA 2003
Young memories R v JH & TG  EWCA Crim 1828; R v JCWS &
MW  EWCA Crim 1404
Need to obtain waiver of legal privilege
Identify the actual complaints
Protocol by CA
R v Day  EWCA Crim 1060 – test is the single test of safety. Must show incompetence led to identifiable errors or irregularities in the trial which themselves rendered the process unfair or unsafe.
Abuse of Process – Delay Cases
AG Reference No 1 of 1990  1QB 630
CPS v F  EWCA Crim 1844
R v MacKreth  EWCA Crim 1849
See s 23 Criminal Appeal Act 1968
Must be credible, reliable and admissible. Further not
available at the time of the trial.
Expert Fresh evidence. See R v S et al  EWCA
- R v Sheikh  EWCA Crim 2625
- R v Joynson  EWCA Crim 3049
- R v Burke  EWCA Crim 29
- R v Robson  EWCA Crim 2754
- R v Wake  EWCA Crim 1329
- R v Gillam  EWCA Crim 1744
Right to fair trial
Having conducted the full review, identify the grounds upon which you can establish that the resulting convictions are unsafe .
Establish where you are going i.e. Court of Appeal or Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Ensure that your application is properly presented, with the necessary Forms, Advice and Grounds of Appeal. Paginated bundles with index including all relevant material and case law. Presentation is everything!
Remember if they do not have the supporting material they cannot make a decision.
From Inquiry, Issue 7, Spring 2013
FACTsheet on How to Cope with False Allegations
From FACT (Falsely Accused Parents and Teachers)
Coping with a false allegation of historic abuse in care or teaching: what you can do towards your own defence.
Initially, the shock of being falsely accused and arrested can be such that the person accused does not know where to turn or what to do, so these are some suggestions of what could be done to prepare for trial. It is based on our own experience of being arrested for allegations that were meant to have occurred over 40 years previously. While every case is different, we hope these may help.
1. Join a support group such as FACT: and FACT have a list of other support groups on their website. PAFAA is also a good group for practical and emotional support though not specifically for teachers and carers.
2. Find a specialist solicitor to act for you. You do not have to have the duty solicitor that you probably had in the police station. This area is so specialist that you need the best defence possible. FACT or PAFAA can point you towards those who have a great reputation for acting for the falsely accused, both on a fee basis and on legal aid.
3. You can still do lots of research yourself. Especially if you have been suspended from your job, it is a good way of using up the time you now have spare. However, do not spend any money on research: your accusers and accusations are quite likely to change over the next few months, and you could end up wasting money (such as private detectives) on accusers who cease to be part of your final charges. However, also remember that any research you do must be for you to give to your solicitor and for them to decide what to use.
4. In many case, one of the best things to do is to start to create a ‘Timeline’. If you have EXCEL skills this may be a good thing to do, but if not a simple WORD table, with 3 columns (date, detail, and comments) will be enough. You then just keep inserting new rows as more information becomes available.
5. Enter any dates you have already got, with the source of the info: these might be from your CV, or from the information given to you by the police. However, don’t get excited if this shows that you were not working at the place, or with the accuser, at the time the allegations are supposed to occur. In law, this is not relevant, as accusers are allowed to forget dates (but you are not: can you remember what you had for dinner on a particular day in 1975? If not, this must indicate you are lying!). We were charged with offences that the accuser insisted (27 times) occurred in 1973; we did not go there until 1975; the charge sheet read ‘from 1975 – 1980’.
6. If descriptions of you and what you allegedly wore at the time have been given, and they are inaccurate, then gather photos from that time. If the police have taken photos from your house, then see if friends can supply you with them. Date them on the back.
7. If appropriate, write some short briefing notes for your defence team about the place you worked, what it was like, the age group and type of children there, which will help them to understand the situation.
8. If you are re-arrested or re-interviewed, consider (with legal advice) making a ‘no comment’ interview, especially if you have provided lots of information at your first set of interviews and no interest has been shown in this.
9. Consider asking friends to search the social media pages of your accusers. (Best not to do this on your own site). Some of the support groups can advise re this.
10. Unless you have a bail condition preventing this, get in touch with former colleagues who you think may be able to help you and/or even be a defence witness for you. Be careful with former children at the place you worked: the lure of financial compensation could encourage more false accusations. BUT if you know that there are former residents/pupils that are 100% reliable then they make powerful witnesses.
11. Do not provide any information to the police that you think might persuade them to drop the allegation: they may actually use it to get the accuser to change the details of the allegation. (Jim Davidson was accused of abusing someone in his dressing room at the London Palladium. He provided information to the police showing that the description given by the accuser was inaccurate and not feasible, so the police went back to the accuser who changed the venue to another one 50 miles away).
If you are charged
12. Once you appear in court the prosecution (CPS) have to start to disclose material to you. The first thing you will get should be transcripts of your own interviews and copies of the statements of your accuser/s. Go through these very carefully. Identify anything that you wish to comment on in your own statements and anything from the accusers’ statements and make detailed notes, referring to page numbers etc. Add anything relevant here to your timeline, such as dates of the interviews with the accuser.
13. You will also get copies of a ‘Police schedule of relevant non-sensitive unused material’, containing all actions etc. carried out in your case. In the right-hand-column the prosecution add notes:
D = Disclose to defence
I: Disclosable to defence and defence can inspect
ND: Not Disclosable
CND: Clearly not Disclosable
D&C: Disclosable and copied (to you)
‘May assist the defence”.
14. You and your defence team need to go through this carefully. You are entitled to ‘request’ anything that they have said is not disclosable, and your solicitor will put together a Defence Case Statement” (DCS). In this, you point out why something should be disclosed. (If they still refuse to disclose it you can submit more detailed reasons why you should see it, and if they still refuse then an application can eventually be made to the judge). We continually requested a document that they were refusing to disclose until the last minute, which proved crucial.
15. If you find that there are things in your accusers statements that seem odd, your defence team can seek clarification (we discovered that there had clearly been meetings between the police and our accusers which were not recorded, as information in the statements of our accusers could only have been given to them by the police but there was no record of this on the transcript). Your defence team can request a copy of the ‘contact log’ between the police and your accuser. If you get this, add dates to the Timeline.
16. If relevant, you can request child care files, school records, counselling records, medical records etc. of your accuser. When these are provided, make sure they come from the correct source. (In our case, the police went to the selected bits of his care file that our accuser had read and copied and given to his counselling project, and then said that material that we wanted was not there, and we had to insist they went to the local authority source). Keep adding any dates to the timeline.
17. If relevant, you can request a print out from the DVLC of your driving record, when you first learned to drive, and the cars you have owned (One of us was accused of driving a boy to hospital (and abusing him there) 10 years before passing the driving test; in another case we know of a person has been accused of driving someone to a site where he was abused when the person he accuses was aged 15; in another case a member of care staff accused of participating in abuse was aged 13 at the time). Keep adding any dates to the timeline.
18. If there is any media coverage of your arrest, keep copies. If a newspaper allows comments about you on their website (as happened to us on day 1 of the trial) your solicitor can stop this (it is illegal).
19. You should receive a copy of the criminal record of your accuser/s, if they have one. If you have multiple accusers, check to see if they could have been in prison together at any stage (two of our accusers were convicted murderers who almost certainly would have come across each other during their sentences, and this explained the corroboration of lies and false descriptions).
20. Some accusers are multiple complainants and may have claimed or are claiming compensation in your case (claims can be made against your employer; the employer’s liability insurer and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. You can ask for disclosure of any claims they have made. They are also likely to have signed a standard prosecution statement on disclosure, so check if there are inconsistencies here.
Preparing for trial
21. There is likely to be a long gap between your first arrest, you being charged, and your trial (32 months in our case!), so try and keep on top of the paperwork and updating your timeline. If things are found on the internet/social media that are relevant, print them off or take screenshots and print them off, in case they get removed.
22. Your solicitor may ask you to write, or to help with, your Defence Case Statement, and then preparation for trial, including briefing for barristers etc. if you have them. Try and focus on the key (killer) points that the defence team can build your case around. Even if they are unable to use them all, it helps to put things into context for them.*
Source: FACT (Falsely Accused Parents and Teachers), http://www.factuk.org/new-factsheet-on-how-to-cope-with-a-false-allegation/
Why It Is Too Easy for Innocent People to be Wrongly Accused of Sexual Abuse
An article by Dr Ros Burnett, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford, on the reasons for innocent people being wrongly accused, including why investigations and management of sexual abuse cases are prone to mistakes. Please click here to read more.
A Call for the Anonymity of Accused Individuals
A recent case has once again raised the issue of false memories, false accusations, and the right of anonymity for accused individuals.
Quality Solicitors Jordans have issued a press release in regard to the recent Elgan Varney case:
PRESS STATEMENT – ELGAN VARNEY – ISSUED BY QUALITY SOLICITORS JORDANS ON HIS BEHALF – 20TH MARCH 2017
CROWN OFFER NO EVIDENCE AND FINALLY END NIGHTMARE OF MAN ACCUSED BY DECEASED FORMER GIRLFRIEND
MARK NEWBY – HEAD OF CRIME @ QS JORDANS SAID:
“We are delighted that today Elgan’s nightmare is finally over with the Crown offering no evidence. There are no winners in this case and it remains a considerable concern that this case was ever subject to a charge. This case again demonstrates both the danger of false allegations and false memories. More importantly it highlights the decimation that is caused to a person who is named in the media on the basis of unfounded allegations. This has to stop.“
As for Elgan we only hope he is able now to pick up the pieces of his life.
What follows are Elgans own words “
[For journalists’ information Elgan Varney was accused of sexual offences against his former girlfriend who sadly later took her own life. Despite there being clear evidence that these were false and unreliable allegations the Crown proceeded to prosecute. Expert evidence supported by other case evidence strongly indicated these were false allegations].
For further comment contact QS Jordans 01302 365374 or email email@example.com
For information only: junior Counsel Matthew Stanbury – Garden Court North Chambers Manchester – firstname.lastname@example.org – Tel 0161 817 6377
Ann Cotcher QC – Garden Court North Chambers – Tel 0161 817 6377
Firstly, this is not a time for celebration for me. Quite simply, I should never have been charged and put through this horrendous ordeal. Whilst I am pleased that the Crown Prosecution service has finally come to the conclusion that I have no case to answer, one has to question the timing of the prosecution’s decision to offer no evidence 4 days before the trial was due to start and over 2 years since these false allegations were made. Today I have been totally exonerated of all the wrongful allegations against me and formally acquitted, however my name has been published across the national media and I have suffered so much that the only thing that has keep me going in the darkest of times is the truth.
It has taken far too long to get to this point and I have had to spend two years of my life and untold stress fighting to clear my name; two years of enormous struggle and time that I will never get back. My vocational choice has been put in jeopardy and my life during that time can only be described as an existence. It has been agony. My family have suffered; my close friends have suffered and tens of thousands of pounds of public money was spent on this prosecution before common sense prevailed. I am very grateful that I was eligible for legal aid and would like to thank the full team at QS Jordans led by Mark Newby and in particular Hollie Alcock and Anna O’Mara and my barristers Matthew Stanbury and Ann Cotcher QC of Garden Court North Chambers who all worked diligently and persistently on my behalf and could see this was a prosecution that should never have been brought from the outset.
I wish to acknowledge how tragic the complainant’s untimely death was, and as someone who only ever cared about her I would like to send my sincere condolences to her family. I know she was a troubled young woman, and it pains me that she made unfounded allegations that came about after I told her I didn’t want to be in a relationship with her. I have felt a whole mixture of emotions since I was shockingly accused, ranging from anger to deep depression. However, I will sadly never know the exact reasons for her actions. My anger and frustration is directed at the police and the CPS who had overwhelming evidence from the outset that no crime was committed. I was looking forward to the facts coming out at trial and I have to wonder why the CPS don’t want that now.
I fully believe that all sexual allegations should be investigated in a robust, fair and balanced manner and offenders should be brought to justice. However, in the current climate it is far too easy for innocent people to be falsely accused. The police and CPS policy offers no protection to those wrongfully accused and many lives are left in tatters. It is a problem that has to be acknowledged and not ignored for fear of putting genuine victims off reporting, because the reality is, false allegations only harm the cause of those with a genuine complaint.
Due to the awful stigma surrounding sexual allegations I think there needs to be anonymity for those accused. The impact of having one’s name in the media associated with abhorrent crimes despite being innocent is nightmarish. It impacts future prospects and you are never allowed to fully move forward when the fact that you have been accused is one click away on google. The pendulum has swung too far and fairness and balance needs to be restored so that the presumption of innocence is not completely eroded.
I’d like to finish by saying a big thank you to my family, my friends and everyone has stood by me. Without you I don’t think I would be here anymore. I hope I can now pick up the pieces of my life and be left to try and move forward in peace.
CBC News, August 27th 2013
A legal researcher and a criminal solicitor examine the devastating impact of false allegations in the courtroom.
Memory, make-believe and the courts – what’s the mischief? – Inside Time, May 2008
List of Contents
How long ago?
Complex, organised and institutional cases
Solicitors and barristers
Lawsuits against parents
Action against mental health professionals
Retrospective allegations of child sexual abuse may be true, a mixture of truth and falsehood or completely false. Prior to the exposure of highly questionable therapeutic techniques for eliciting abuse allegations in children and adults – methods which are known to be unreliable – suspects for sexual offences had the highest rate of spontaneous confession among any group of suspected offenders – nearly 90 per cent. A similar figure was found for accusations of incest. (Source: Mitchell B. (1983) Confessions and police interrogation of suspects. Crim Law Rev Sept 596-604; Manchester A. Incest and the Law in Family Violence (1978)).
There is therefore no evidence to suggest that denial of offences is indicative of guilt. Recent Home Office Research (HO Findings Paper 164 – “Reconviction rates of serious sex offenders and assessments of their risk”) indeed suggests that deniers pose no greater risk of reconviction than controls. Deniers do however, clearly suffer prejudice in the minds of the Authorities on issues such as parole or risk assessment etc.
Studies of ‘denial’ which appear to show high rates among convicted sex offenders are associated with adult rapes and issues of consent, not the existence of the events or victim harm among admitted paedophiles. (Source: Kennedy, H & Grubin D. Patterns of denial in sex offenders. Psychological Medicine, 22, 191-6).
The particular area of Paedophilia and Rape abound with shibboleths and myths that pass for sloppy scientific thinking. It is often observed (e.g.) that paedophiles are notoriously difficult to cure and treat, and rapists are likely to re-offend. In the same breath, proponents will argue that only a miniscule proportion of either group of offender ever come before the courts, and an even lesser fraction are actually convicted. A moment’s reflection will show that the two premises are totally contradictory. If only a minute fraction of paedophiles and rapists ever present themselves to the Criminal Justice System, the vast majority of offenders are “out there” committing their offences with impunity. Of the numbers known to the authorities the sample would be so infinitesimally small, that one could make no reliable observations about the incidence and trends of either criminal group.
There is undoubtedly a social perception that previous generations swept issues of child sexual abuse, familial patterns of generational abuse, and abuse occurring in institutions (boarding schools, hospitals residential homes etc), under the carpet. Unfortunately the swing of the pendulum has now produced a Criminal Justice system that seems very slow to recognise that “over-reaction” can produce as many evils as those which it set out to remedy.
Because of a significant relaxation to the rules governing Similar Fact evidence in two decisions of the House of Lords in the final decade of the last century, and a more permissive approach to police investigative methods (such as “trawling for evidence”), an innocent person is much more likely to be prosecuted and possibly convicted than was previously the case and it is therefore hardly surprising that denial rates among convicted sex offenders have significantly risen.
In the UK, uncorroborated retrospective allegations of child sexual abuse may be criminally prosecuted at any time. There is no statutory limitation period (unlike in civil cases) and complaints alleging abuse thirty or more years ago may be made for the first time now and brought to trial.
Since the prosecution may rest on a confabulated narrative that is impossible to refute because there is no objective evidence to go by, innocent people may be convicted of non-existent child sexual abuse offences.
The justification given for pursuing this no-limitation policy in English Law rests on two principal arguments. (1) That child sexual abuse is a phenomenon whose consequences can often only be appreciated and faced by the “victim” in later adult life and (2) Knowledge that there will be no respite from liability for their crimes for the rest of their lives deters adult abusers from criminal acts against contemporary victims.
The policy is unique to English Common Law. The other nations of Europe whose systems evolved from the Civil Law (Roman) all invariably have time limits (dependent upon severity and class of case etc) after which no prosecution may be brought. Some cases such as War Crimes, Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity have by international convention, no time limits.
The feature which is unique to retrospective child sexual abuse allegations is often that it is the only class of crime, WHERE PROOF OF ANY CRIME HAVING BEEN COMMITTED DEPENDS EXCLUSIVELY UPON ORAL EVIDENCE.
As has been said “In these crimes, there is no body, no smoking gun, and no blood on the carpet”.
Nevertheless, the European Court of Human Rights has recently defended the right of States to choose to have or not have periods of limitation for the prosecution of crime. (SAWONIUK -v- UK).
There are a number of different types of false allegations. Even where the initial allegation is a conscious lie, it is possible for the accuser to come to believe the allegations, especially when motivated, encouraged or reinforced. Also since a daily dose of media, stories and documentaries come to give the impression that child sexual abuse is endemic and widespread, vulnerable people may feel that they have been given “therapeutic permission” to ascribe all their failings in life, to the incidence of abusive trauma suffered in child-hood. At the end of the day it may be difficult to distinguish between lies and sincerely held false beliefs.
A history of psychological treatment, therapy or counselling may have significance in terms of the reliability of the allegations and their admissibility as evidence. Certain attributes of the accuser may also be relevant in this regard.
Research has demonstrated that both psychotherapeutic techniques and police investigation can unwittingly elicit false testimony that may then be believed and reinforced.
The latter dangers have been highlighted in the House of Commons all-party inquiry in to retrospective child abuse in children’s homes. (HOME OFFICE DOCUMENT ref/HC 836-I, 836-II). The recommendations of this committee received a very lukewarm response from Government (Observations in Response – ref Cm 5799)
How long ago?
Sometimes, false allegations concern abuse held to have occurred decades ago. At other times the abuse is alleged to have continued into adulthood, though there is no corroborative evidence. There is no fixed rule on the length of delay indicative of false allegations even when sincerely made; but sometimes, recent false allegations can be proven to be delusional because of greater specificity concerning time and the availability of an alibi.
Teenage false allegations may also be alleged to have continued up until recently and may erupt quite suddenly.
Complex, organised and institutional cases
Sometimes cases are built up over a period of time on the basis of a suspicion of a large number of abusers who may be members of the same family or linked in some other way.
In particular there has been a massive growth in retrospective allegations of abuse in children’s homes and residential schools. Such cases can quickly overwhelm all those involved in the defence despite the innocence of those charged.
Solicitors and Barristers
We can give information on:
Timeline* methods to challenge allegations
Researching and identifying ‘recovered memory’ and other unreliable evidence
The legal status of ‘recovered memory’ evidence
Retrospective uncorroborated allegations – ‘delayed complaints’
Abuse of process applications
The choice and use of expert witnesses
Legal precedent (UK and Commonwealth)
Grounds for appeal and the Criminal Cases Review Commission
* Timeline is a method of reconstructing a relevant history of one’s life, from records, documents, letters, photos etc and for aiding and marshalling memory so as to deal as far as may be possible with detailed accusations, many years after the event.
Lawsuits against parents
Action against alleged abusers may only be taken in the civil courts within six years of the alleged physical or sexual abuse or six years of the age of majority (i.e. until 24). This is because the acts are assaults and therefore actionable under the law of trespass to the person where the strict limitation period prevails.
Different rules apply under negligence where there is judicial discretion to waive the normal three years within which to sue. Negligence entails a breach of a duty of care so that one parent might conceivably be sued if it is alleged that s/he knew about the abuse and failed to protect the child.
Usually negligence suits involving abuse are against institutions and schools rather than parents or relatives, but exceptions do exist.
A 1998 consultation paper by the Law Commission recommended changes in the current law which will result in lawsuits similar to those in the USA on the basis of recovered memory or alleged delayed discovery of the effects. Many of the recommendations seem likely to be incorporated into changes to the Limitation Act 1980 following the Law Lords ruling in January 2008 in the case of A v Hoare. This case was one of six considered by the Court. (See A v Hoare – Opening the flood gates? in the BFMS Newsletter March 2008, Vol. 16, No. 1, page 21)
The BFMS is concerned by this development as it proposed to the Law Commission that a cause of action should exist in retrospective child abuse cases only where it is possible to objectively determine the existence of the alleged abuse i.e. there must be independent corroboration. In Hoare the House of Lords recognised that their decision might well lead to a great number of claims from victims seeking to disapply the three year limitation period. However, the inhibiting effect of sexual abuse upon a victim’s preparedness to bring proceedings will not automatically lead to a Court exercising a Section 33 discretion (discretionary extension) in his or her favour. It will be just one of the factors to be considered by a judge when exercising discretion and in the absence of cogent evidence or of a complaint made and recorded at the time or of a conviction for the abuse complained of, many cases may well be unable to proceed out of time.
Action against mental health professionals and institutions for false memories/ allegations
Medical negligence connected with false or recovered memory may be subject to claims made by former patients. In the USA since 1994 there have been multi-million dollar settlements by psychiatrists and hospitals diagnosing and treating Multiple Personality Disorder. (See the FMSF Website at www.fmsfonline.org)
Legal aid may be available in some cases. Conditional fee arrangements are possible but would require high legal insurance premiums and may incur extra court costs not covered.
Third party lawsuits against mental health professionals are commonly thought to be impossible in the UK. However, this is a fluid area and given the seriousness of the allegations and the foreseeable harm to the accused the law may yet develop in this area echoing the Hungerford and Jones (1998) ruling in the USA, (Supreme Court of New Hampshire).
BFMS is a small but national charity. We do not give formal legal opinions or advice. Whilst every care is taken with regard to information contained in the Society’s correspondence, newsletter or displayed on this web-site, we cannot accept liability arising from reliance upon the same, howsoever arising.
This means that the Society does not operate a legal help-line as such, nor do we provide legal advice. (We can assist solicitors with assessing the potential that a case shows indications of the presence of false memory.)
The Society will, where possible, be pleased to provide such professionals with extracts from our archive of relevant research.
Essentially, the Society can be most useful where a point has already been identified in a case which falls within the ambit of the Society’s researches i.e. issues of memory, “False Memory”, “Recovered Memory”, reliability of evidence based upon memory and related issues.