Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Payout after police video blunder

A woman who reported she was raped and physically abused by her former partner has won compensation after a police force lost her video evidence.

The case against her ex-boyfriend was dropped on the eve of the trial because there was not a realistic prospect of conviction.

She has won £7,500 compensation from Avon and Somerset Police after the force accepted it breached her rights under the Human Rights Act.

The woman, known only as Ms D for legal reasons, has spoken of her "emotional nightmare" and has called for all police forces to review their processes for securing video evidence to prevent anyone else going through a similar ordeal.

Ms D had to give two video statements at Clevedon police station about the alleged abuse she suffered between 2009 and 2011.

In January last year, days before the trial was due to begin into three charges of rape and one of sexual assault, the Crown Prosecution Service informed her a prosecution could not be pursued because there was no realistic prospect of conviction.

This was because of discrepancies between the notes taken of the first video interview and the actual second video interview, which was completed several months later after Ms D had gone through extensive counselling.

Ms D took legal action and argued there had been a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Police admitted the original video evidence was lost along with a working copy and conducted an investigation.

The force was unable to establish how the evidence was lost but acknowledged there was a flaw in the process for securing video evidence.

Ms D said: "Towards the end of 2011 my new partner helped give me the strength to go to the police and report the abuse I had suffered from my ex-boyfriend.

"It was terrifying but I knew it was the only way I would ever have closure and be able to begin to put everything behind me.

"In summer 2012 I was told the original video had been lost and I would have to provide my evidence again. By this point I had undergone 10 weeks of counselling and was beginning to move on from my experience.

"I was prepared to relive everything again if it meant gaining justice so I did it and my ex-boyfriend was charged a short time later, which I was very relieved about.

"But just days before the trial was due to begin I was told the case had to be discontinued as the CPS felt unable to prosecute because of the loss of the first video evidence.

"I feel like I will never be able to fully move forward with my life as I have been robbed of the opportunity to see justice done. It has been an emotional nightmare.

"Nothing can change my situation but I just hope that improvements are made to protect video evidence by police forces across the country as I wouldn't want any other victim or vulnerable witness to go through the same horrific ordeal as me."

Fiona McGhie, a public law expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: "Losing this vital evidence was an inexcusable error made by the police with devastating consequences for our client.

"But the fact it did happen amounted to a breach of our client's human rights as well as a breach of the state's duty to effectively investigate when a credible allegation of rape is made.

"Reporting the abuse was not a decision she took lightly and it obviously takes a tremendous amount of courage for any victim of abuse to come forward and relive what happened when giving evidence.

"For Ms D to have to do this twice and still not get the opportunity to see her case brought before a judge is something she is unlikely to ever get over.

"We welcome Avon and Somerset Police's confirmation that a major review of process has resulted in the implementation of new measures for safeguarding video evidence and we hope the lessons learnt in this case are shared with other police forces to prevent the same mistake from being repeated elsewhere."

Assistant Chief Constable Kay Wozniak, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: "This was a terrible ordeal for Ms D and we deeply regret the additional trauma she suffered as a result of our failure to secure the first evidence she gave.

"Her experience prompted us to carry out a comprehensive review of the recording, storage and management of video interviews. Now we store them digitally so that an incident of this kind could not happen again."

She added: "We take all reports of rape and sexual assault extremely seriously. Our priority is to give victims the confidence to come forward and report incidents to us.

"When a victim reports a rape or sexual assault the investigation is led by specialist investigation teams, and independent sexual violence advocates support the victim all the way through from their first report, through the investigation and, if the offender is identified and charged, to court.

"It's really important that victims are reassured. We have learned from this case and they can have every confidence in us to support them and follow their case through to a conclusion."


From Belfast Telegraph