Supporting All Falsely Accused with Reference Information

SAFARI fights for changes in the British Legal System to provide better protection for victims of false allegations and wrongful convictions

Samantha Murray-Evans (44) has been jailed for 27 months for falsely accusing a police officer of rape when he rejected her after their one-night stand. PC Paul Morgan (52) may well have been convicted were it not for the discovery of flirtatious WhatsApp messages sent by Ms Murray-Evans after their one-night­stand three years ago. The texts including one from Ms Murray-Evans saying ‘the sex was great’. She had turned up at his home the day after but sent him aggressive messages after he asked her to leave.

Prosecutor Catherine Richards said: “The messages led police to believe this was a false allegation and the matter against him was dropped.” Ms Murray-Evans eventually admitted carrying out acts intending to pervert the course of justice. Judge Paul Thomas QC said her ‘planned, persistent and callous’ lies had ruined Mr Morgan’s career and left him depressed and suicidal.

Misleading Evidence: more widespread than you think. A study (entitled “A systematic analysis of misleading evidence in unsafe rulings in England and Wales”) by University College London scientists Nadine Smit, Ruth Morgan and David Lagnado has shown that a shocking 22% of decisions made in the Magistrates and Crown Courts were unsafe because of ‘misleading evidence’. The study looked at transcripts of almost a thousand cases and discovered that 76% of successful appeals were as a result of different interpretations of evidence at the original trial. In 235 cases studied there were examples of misleading evidence; over one third involved problems with how evidence was presented at trial, and judges and juries were misled when its validity, its value as proof, or its relevance were wrongly interpreted. In 26% of those cases, juries had been misdirected by judges on these issues.

Their paper asks lawyers and expert witnesses to make the relationship between evidence and hypothesis more clear to avoid errors in understanding. Even expert witnesses’ belief in their own theory is sometimes insufficiently supported by the actual evidence itself. Even DNA evidence is not infallible. The scientists concluded that “the identified cases are only the tip of the iceberg and can no longer be attributed to simple individual ‘bad apples’ in the system.” The study calls for more and better examination of the transcripts of cases, with improvements to access to these to avoid mistakes being repeated. The scientists state: “The consequences of these are severe, and have caused many defendants to be wrongfully incarcerated.”

Judge Lady Scott Has Slated Police officer (known only as DC Anderson (Tayside Division, Dundee) who interviewed defendant Jake Hawkins. Lady Scott said: “I found him [DC Anderson] evasive, and in particular I found his denial that he sought to undermine the legal advice given not credible.” The advice given to Mr Hawkins by his solicitor was consistently undermined by interviewing officers to the extent that he felt he could no longer trust him. Judge Lady Scott said that statements given by suspects must be “spontaneous and voluntary” and that the Crown “had not established this interview was fair and the statements made can properly be said to be voluntary”. She added that police had effectively “cross-examined” Jake during the interview, an illegal tactic, and described the interview as “wholly improper”. During the interrogation, detectives had told Jake Hawkins that they were impartial – but then told him they believed he was guilty. They also deliberately lied to him during the interview, telling him that his solicitor didn’t know what evidence they had against him.

They repeatedly suggested to him that he should ignore his solicitor’s advice, and admitted that these tactics had been used with the intent of coercing him to change his position. Judge Lady Scott stated: “It should be obvious to the police that to seek to undermine a solicitor’s advice to a suspect is wholly improper.” The interview evidence was ruled inadmissible in Court, and Jake was acquitted.

It seems to SAFARI that this is a refreshing change from what frequently happens – when police officers use underhand or unlawful interrogation techniques to coerce suspects into making confessions – and nothing is done about it. The subject of false confessions has been researched extensively by Gisli Guojonsson, CBE (Professor of Forensic Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London), and it is quite clear that these can arise even as a result of mild pressure, let alone persistent, repeated and intense pressure from interviewers.

Our feeling is that tactics which have been ruled to be illegal – such as cross­examining suspects during interview – should be dealt with appropriately by our legal system, and officers who indulge in such tactics should not merely be reprimanded by a judge, but the full weight of the law should be brought down upon them. Only then will it become not worth their while to indulge in such tactics. If any SAFARI reader has had a DC Anderson of Tayside Police involved in their investigation and interviews, and if he used similar techniques to elicit a false confession, it may be worth their while informing their solicitor of this case and the Judge’s findings.

From A Regular Reader: “My recent experience as a prisoner maintaining innocence: I was wrongly convicted of rape and am serving a ten-year sentence. My initial security category was B, due to sentence length. My OASys (Offender Assessment System) risk scores are low-to-medium and have not changed since my conviction. On the rare occasions when I have had contact with my Offender Supervisor (Prison Officer) or Offender Manager (Probation Officer) I have said I am happy to do any offending behaviour course they like, so long as it’s clear that I’m maintaining my innocence. I’ve had courses put onto my sentence plan, then taken off again when I was found to be ineligible either because I maintain innocence or because my risk scores were too low. At the first opportunity, I asked to move to Category C, pointing out that the rules (PS40/2011) say that all prisoners should be in the lowest category commensurate with their risk. My risk scores were commensurate with C-cat or D-cat. The rules also say that, where a prisoner is ineligible for courses due to maintaining innocence, the prison must consider other ways in which he or she can demonstrate a reduction in risk.

My behaviour and work records were excellent, and I was a volunteer literacy mentor. At my first annual re-cat, in 2015, the prison said that I would stay Cat-B because I had not demonstrated any reduction in risk. I appealed internally, and then to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, all to no avail. In 2016 I was again turned down, but this time I won my internal appeal. I was told by the Re-Cat Officer: “I have been asked to review the documentation, having been advised that being in denial should not stop progression. [He] could be managed in C-cat conditions.”

This was the same officer who had rejected me the previous year for being “in denial”. Perhaps the rules (in force since 2011) are finally becoming understood! I endorse SAFARI’s advice to prisoners: engage in sentence plan targets while always telling the truth about your innocence; and, if at first you don’t succeed, complain, complain, complain! I’d also urge the Prison Service to make its rules clear to its staff. At present, a prisoner who completes a course and thus achieves a small reduction to a still-quite-high risk score can qualify for aD-cat (open) prison ahead of a prisoner whose risk score has been consistently much lower but cannot be reduced further. This contradicts the section of the rules that says all prisoners should be in the lowest security category commensurate with their risk.”

Rebecca Palmer (26) Has Been Jailed for five years after falsely claiming she was raped. The CPS said Palmer had “indulged in consensual sexual activity” with her victim, and launched a “malicious campaign” after he rejected her. She was found guilty of four offences of perverting the course of justice. She also pleaded guilty to five offences of malicious communications and three of perverting the course of public justice. Joanne Jakymec, chief crown prosecutor, said Palmer had sent “malicious communications” to both the victim and his family and repeatedly made false allegations including one of rape. Ms Palmer even invented fake friend profiles and fabricated correspondence, hoping that these would be accepted as evidence supporting her false claims.

Ex-Lib Dem Jason Zadrozny’s life is in tatters after three years of what amounts to persecution by police and the CPS. Despite knowing that his accuser was being treated with drugs which can produce delusions; despite knowing early on that Jason had no connection whatsoever to a house in which the accuser said Jason had abused him; despite having been told on the day Jason was first arrested that Jason didn’t own a car in which his accuser had said he had been abused until years after the alleged event; and despite knowing that another witness who claimed to have seen Jason kissing his accuser, and also claimed to have been in the car with Jason and the accuser, had previously been convicted of perverting the course of justice, they continued to hound him. Police conduct during interviews was also improper, with Jason being subjected to homophobic attitudes. He says: “I was repeatedly asked the most explicit and intimate questions. I felt one of the officers was simply disgusted that I am gay. After listening to their questions, I felt dirty.”

The story of his arrest was leaked to the BBC by an unidentified Labour source (which begs the question: how did they know about it?), and to radio Mansfield 103.2 by a senior officer before any official comment was released by Police. Tony Delahunty, managing director and news editor of Mansfield 103.2, says: “This was before any official statement, and it was coming direct from Notts police. It looks now like an attempt to manipulate the media.” This was just 56 days before the General Election, in which Jason would have stood as Ashfield’s Lib Dem candidate, ensuring that the accusations and arrest would get maximum publicity. Added to this, Police raided the Lib Dem offices, seizing computers and mobile phones that Jason had never used, and despite there having been no suggestion that they were involved. Jason’s campaign manager, Dave Hennigan, said: “Our HQ was rendered useless.

They disabled our campaign.” As a result of the false accusations, the leaking of the story to the media, and the seizure of the Lib Dem offices’ equipment, both Jason’s reputation and the Lib Dem campaign were destroyed. Jason says: “I believe the intention was to cause me maximum damage, not only politically but emotionally, to break me. Everyone assumed the worst must be true, and in our society allegations of this kind are the worst you can throw at anyone.” He also says:

“All along I’ve wondered how I could have been charged, let alone found guilty. I’m loath to believe the police can really be so incompetent, and that it took nearly three years. The agenda seems to have been to prolong the pain as long as possible.” Without any chance to clear his name Jason was forced out of the Lib Dems. He says: “I’m broke. Clearing my name has taken almost every penny I had. And I lost my chance to represent the area where I grew up in Parliament [ … ] Now I’m left trying to pick up the threads of my life, but it’s sinking in, what I’ve lost. In every way, I feel bereaved.” It was only when the trial was actually due to begin that the CPS announced it was dropping all charges because, they said, there was “no realistic prospect of conviction.” Why not be honest and drop the charges as soon as it became clear the allegations had been fabricated in the first place?

Serious questions have now been asked about the Police and CPS’s handling of Jason’s case. Not only did the prosecution and police know early on of all the weakness in their case, but they also chose not to disclose it to Jason’s team until almost two years after his initial arrest, and even then it took another ten months before they backed down. SAFARI feels that Jason should be heavily compensated, not only for the financial costs involved (which would have been significantly less if the undermining evidence had been disclosed earlier, or the police had investigated about the car in a timely manner) but also for the severe emotional damage that has been caused to him which will, no doubt, haunt him for the rest of his life. We also feel that the entire background and timing of this incident should be subjected to the most extensive scrutiny. If the accuser and the other witness are prosecuted – as we feel they should be – for perverting the course of justice, more light might be shed on this.

Related Articles

Back to top button