13:45, December 19 355 0 theguardian.com

2017-12-19 13:45:03
Police non-disclosure should lead to reform

I am astonished at the lack of coverage of Liam Allan’s trial by the Guardian (Scotland Yard carrying out ‘urgent review’ after rape trial collapses, 15 December). This young man came very close to being wrongly convicted of rape due to appalling failures by the police and CPS to disclose material to the defence and prosecuting counsel. A review is being undertaken by the police and CPS into the causes of this particular failure but there are deeper concerns that need addressing: underfunding of the police and CPS, cuts to legal aid and the rise in unrepresented defendants, the culture of “victim belief” in reports of sexual offences and how the Criminal Cases Review Commission deals with unused material. Actual innocence cases are a powerful tool for systemic reform – positive changes came from cases such as the Birmingham Six. Much of that pressure came from media coverage of the cases. The Guardian has a proud history of campaigning against miscarriages of justice – this case came very close to joining that tragic list. I hope you will look into it.

Dr Hannah Quirk

Senior lecturer in criminal law and justice, School of Law, University of Manchester

The prosecution of Liam Allan on rape charges was only dropped after the police belatedly disclosed undermining evidence. This begs the question: When will Essex police disclose allegedly withheld evidence in the case of Jeremy Bamber? He was convicted in 1986 of killing five family members, jailed for life and decreed to never be released by the home secretary. Yet at his trial, and for 31 years since then, the police are accused of failing to disclose to Bamber’s legal team over 100 of items of evidence. I wrote to Essex chief constable Stephen Kavanagh this year, listing the withheld items. The reply from his spokesperson did not deny they had this evidence. Instead, I was told Essex police were “comfortable that all relevant material has been disclosed”. The police have apparently abrogated to themselves the right to determine what evidence is “relevant.” This defies a basic principle of British justice that the defence has a right to see all the evidence. The home secretary must now press Essex police to hand over the non-disclosed material. Until this is done, Jeremy Bamber’s conviction will remain unsafe.

Peter Tatchell

Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

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