Rape trial officer admits to failures in handling of case
The investigating officer in a rape trial has accepted she "should have done more", particularly in respect of securing the complainant's mobile phone.
During cross-examination at Dungannon Crown Court, the officer acknowledged cases had been dropped due to content on phones of people who accuse others of rape.
The defendant, who is in his 20s but cannot be identified, denies multiple sexual offences against a 15-year-old girl.
Both were at a family party on August 6, 2016, and were collected around 2am, squeezing into the back of a car with two others.
The complainant claimed she was sexually assaulted by the defendant while sitting on his knee.
At her home, the defendant decided to stay over, which wasn't unusual. She alleges he later came to her room, got into bed and raped her.
However, he maintains nothing occurred in the bar, car or house.
Under cross-examination, the officer conceded several points on her handling of the case.
She confirmed the defendant voluntarily surrendered his phone for examination.
The complainant did not, despite requests to do so, contending it was being repaired.
Defence counsel asked the officer if she was aware that investigations are meant to seek out evidence on both defendant and complainant.
After saying she did, counsel enquired: "Do you accept you should have done more?"
The officer replied: "Yes I do."
Asked what inquiries were made into the phone, the officer recalled telling the mother: "We need the original handset."
Counsel said: "You know the importance of phones? Cases have been dropped over things found on a complainant's phone."
The officer responded: "I understand… my direction and method of thinking was Snapchat. The original handset was needed for that."
She was asked: "Do you accept you approached this the wrong way?"
The officer replied: "I understand."
Judge Stephen Fowler QC inquired: "Did you ask when the phone was sent for repair?"
The officer said: "I asked the mother, but she was never able to get back to me on this."
The judge asked how many times she followed this up, and was told "I can't answer that."
The officer then said: "I tried a few times. I didn't attempt to contact (the manufacturer) because the mother was doing this. I know if she did get it, she would have got it to me."
Asked why she believed this, the officer said: "She knew I wanted it back."
Counsel continued: "Is it the case the police failed to fully investigate the complainant's phone, despite the defendant volunteering his?"
This was accepted.
The defence said: "You weren't operating alone. There is a team with experience. Did you avail of that?"
The officer said technical staff advised that the original handset was required.
Counsel said: "You were entirely focused on Snapchat and didn't perform any other investigation into texts. You should have done more that you did."
The officer replied: "I appreciate that."
Counsel said: "This investigation is short of what it should be, isn't it?"
With no response, the question was asked again. Still there was no reply, but asked a third time, the officer said: "I don't believe so."
Counsel put the suggestion again, and she replied: "I appreciate that."
Intervening, Judge Fowler inquired: "Do the relevant team interrogate the phone?"
The officer confirmed this, and the judge continued: "But you direct the investigation?"
This was also confirmed.
The officer also said the mattress on which the complainant alleges the rape occurred was forensically examined, with no matching DNA found.
The case continues.