PM backs disclosure review after collapse of two rape trials

Posted On: 
20th December 2017

Theresa May has given her backing to a review of procedures around rape cases following the collapse of two trials this week.

Nigel Evans speaking outside Preston Crown Court after he was found not guilty of nine charges in 2014.
Credit: 
PA images

The PM told MPs that Attorney General Jeremy Wright had already launched a review into disclosure of evidence, and it was “important that we look at this again to make sure we are truly providing justice.”

She was responding to a Commons question from Tory MP Nigel Evans, who was himself cleared of rape in April 2014.

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Mr Evans had met with Liam Allen, the university student cleared of all rape charges when the case against him collapsed last week.

The 22-year-old was cleared of all 12 charges after it emerged police had withheld 40,000 messages from his accuser.

Speaking at PMQs, Mr Evans said: “Today I met Liam Allen whose life was put on hold and had to endure torture until his case collapsed last week. This week another case collapsed because of lack of disclosure.

“Does the Prime Minister agree with me that when allegations are made, there should be a full investigation and there should be full disclosure given to the CPS and to both lawyers?”

Theresa May said this was an important point and the Attorney General was already looking into disclosure practices in the UK: "This issue of disclosure has come to a focus of concern and another case which is in the press today. What I can tell him is that the Attorney General, even before these cases had come up, had initiated a review into disclosure. I think it is important that we look at this again to make sure we are truly providing justice.”

Nigel Evans later expanded on Sky: “I think it’s quite significant that the Attorney General had already embarked on his own review of disclosure, which proves they knew there was already a problem at the heart of the judicial system in this country.”

Mr Evans also pointed to the rise in allegations made over the last few years and dwindling resources facing police as motivating factors for the poor handling of Mr Allen’s case.

Speaking on Sky News earlier today, Mr Allen said: "The system from start to finish seemed to have holes and gaps in it." 

However, the Metropolitan Police have rejected accusations that officers are hindering fair trials.

Scotland Yard is currently reviewing every rape and sexual abuse case where someone was charged, which could run into the hundreds.

Cdr Richard Smith told the Guardian: “We are reviewing all our current cases, prioritising those about to go to court,” as well as cases where “someone has been charged and we are progressing through to prosecution.”

Rape convictions are still very low – only 11.2% cases of the thousands of allegations reported every year are successfully convicted.

Rape Crisis Centres in England and Wales take roughly 4000 calls every week and an estimated 85,000 women and 12000 men are raped every year.

An estimated 3-4% of rape allegations made are false.