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Man's wrongful conviction condemned

The police watchdog has published a report detailing failures by a force in the way it handled the case of a man wrongly imprisoned for sexual assault.

Warren Blackwell, 40, was jailed after a woman claimed he indecently assaulted her outside a social club in the early hours of January 1, 1999 after a New Year's Eve party.

Mr Blackwell, from Woodford Halse, Daventry, Northants, was convicted in October 1999 at Northampton Crown Court, despite maintaining his innocence. He was jailed for three years - later increased to five.

But the conviction was overturned in September 2006 by the Court of Appeal after the case was referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

On Thursday the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it had found weaknesses in the way Northamptonshire Police handled the case. It also criticised the force for taking more than a year to finalise an apology and resolve disciplinary matters with officers involved - by which point one had already retired.

Commissioner Amerdeep Somal said: "As the Court of Appeal has ruled, Warren Blackwell was subject to a terrible miscarriage of justice. Nothing can bring back the three years four months he wrongly spent in prison. I am dismayed that Northamptonshire Police has taken so long to issue an apology to Mr Blackwell that he has patently deserved.

"On top of weaknesses in the original police investigation, a detective failed to disclose to senior officers, the CPS or the defence, crucial information about the credibility of the complainant - all factors which contributed to the wrongful conviction."

Mr Blackwell was released in September 2006 after the Court of Appeal found the alleged victim had previous convictions for dishonesty and had made other false allegations to police, including sexual assault.

It also found evidence not adduced at the trial, when considered as a whole, would have provided a strong case to support the conclusion that the complainant was not the victim of any assault and her injuries were self inflicted.

The IPCC probe, launched in 2007, found failings by three officers who had a case to answer on misconduct grounds. But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) proposed no criminal action should be taken, the IPCC said. The watchdog said Northamptonshire Police's acting Deputy Chief Constable had met with Mr Blackwell and delivered a letter of personal apology from the Chief Constable.


From Belfast Telegraph