Criminal Law Week
Were the defence entitled to play the entirety of a vulnerable complainants evidence to demonstrate that she had lied?
The following article is written for Police Professional by the editors of Criminal Law Week. Criminal Law Week is used by criminal justice professionals including police officers, the CPS, judges and lawyers to stay up to date with changes in criminal law. Published 46 times a year, each issue summarises important cases and legislation, keeping you on top of the latest developments regarding offences, police powers, the rules of procedure and evidence, and more. Incisive commentary is also provided by James Richardson Q.C., the editor of Archbold. Our online service gives you access to all Criminal Law Week issues, from 1997 to today. These are pulled together in a fully-searchable database, complemented by annotated key criminal legislation. For more information about Criminal Law Week, or to sign up for a free trial of our online service, please visit www.criminal-law.co.uk or call 01483 414 599. Were the defence entitled to play the entirety of a vulnerable complainants evidence to demonstrate that she had lied? No, said the Court of Appeal in R v Rehman, Rasheed and Ali (CLW/17/25/5). On August 5, 2013, the complainant, C, a 13-year-old girl, ran away from home in Sheffield. She travelled to Bradford to meet a man named Atif, whom she considered her boyfriend. An extensive police search for her ensued. She was found a week later, on August 12, 2013, in Bradford. She disclosed to the police that during her time away sexual offences had been committed against her by a number of men. A number of video-recorded achieving best evidence interviews were conducted with her, which lasted in total approximately ten-and-a-half hours. In the first interviews she told many lies and concocted detailed but false stories, but the prosecution relied on the final interviews, in which she described offences committed by the defendants, Shakeal Rehman, Bekir Rasheed and Usman Ali, among others. They were charged with various serious sexual offences (trafficking and/or rape and/or sexual activity with a child). At their trial, the defendants wanted the full interviews to be played, but the judge decided that only the last eight hours of the interviews should be played, instead allowing a summary to be put before the jury containing the most obvious lies in the earlier interviews and permitting defence counsel to select and play a 20-minute clip from the earlier interviews that showed Cs demeanour when producing elaborate and fabricated accounts. The defendants also wanted to rely in particular on false allegations of attempted abduction and assault that C had previously made against another man, Sebi Mahmood, with whom she had had a relationship. She later retracted the allegations, admitting she had made them up because she hated him (he was charged with rape as a result of her complaint, but the Crown eventually accepted his pleas to sexual touching instead), but the judge refused to admit evidence as to this. The defendants were convicted, and appealed. The court held that the jury was given a sufficient summary of the earlier interviews, sufficient detail of the lies told by C and sufficient material to show Cs demeanour. The case involved a vulnerable child with very real difficulties in understanding and communication, who gave her evidence through an interpreter and required the services of an intermediary. It followed inevitably that there would be restrictions on cross-examination and on the material that could be put directly to her. It was the duty of all parties, including the judge, to facilitate her giving evidence and to ensure her evidence was tested appropriately, without confusing her or causing her unnecessary distress. If the defence wish to put before the jury a number of previous inconsistent statements made by a witness, they do not have to confront the witness with each and every one of them, in direct questions or by playing her interviews, particularly when the witness is as vulnerable as the complainant here. A list of inconsistent statements can be produced and agreed