Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Rape conviction overturned: Jailed man cleared after prosecutors omitted details of woman’s sex life

Tonderai Chakwana
Tonderai Chakwana

A man's rape conviction was overturned because the Public Prosecution Service did not fully disclose his accuser's description of her sex life, the Court of Appeal has said.

Senior judges said the failure to reveal her reference to having slept with other men rendered the guilty verdict returned against Tonderai Chakwana unsafe.

Mr Chakwana, a 39-year-old Zimbabwean national, served a six-year prison sentence for the sex assault in Belfast.

Although his conviction was overturned last year, reasons for the decision have only been given now. The father-of-three was jailed after a jury rejected his account of having had consensual sex with the woman in July 2008.

His case was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, set up to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice.

A central issue was the alleged editing of the complainant's original statement by a member of staff at the Public Prosecution Service. Judges were told part of a sentence was removed from her account without defence or prosecuting counsel being informed.

She made two statements setting out her recollection of events on the night she claimed to have been raped. In both she described being in a casual relationship with her boyfriend. However, in the earlier account she followed that comment by stating “... and I also had relationships with some of his friends which were very brief and ended up with me having sex with them”.

The prosecution argued the complainant was only interested in her boyfriend and would not have considered having sex with Mr Chakwana because of this commitment.

In evidence she said she told Mr Chakwana that she wasn't interested in a relationship with anybody else. During the appeal, prosecutors accepted that disclosure of the woman’s earlier statement would have led to inquiries about her having sex with her boyfriend’s friends.

Setting out reasons for the decision to overturn the conviction, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan noted that it may have resulted in the prosecution presenting the case differently.

Sir Declan concluded that this rendered the conviction unsafe. Mr Chakwana may now lodge a claim for damages.

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