DRAGGED THROUGH HELL BY RAPE POLICE
As case against 4 young men collapses, detectives are condemned for ‘burying’ evidence that could have cleared them
FOUR young men were dragged through ‘ hell’ by bungling rape detectives who ‘buried’ the evidence that eventually caused the case against them to fall apart.
The quartet, who were arrested after a group sex session at a student ball, last night said police treated them as ‘guilty until proven innocent’. Detec- tives were accused of ‘cherrypicking’ evidence to support their case, while ‘airbrushing’ out anything that suggested the men were innocent. Thady Duff, Leo Mahon and Patrick Foster, all 22, and James Martin, 20, had denied charges of rape and sexual assault.
And the Gloucester Crown Court case against them fell apart after it emerged that the alleged victim had given ‘different accounts’ as a witness in another rape case. Officers are also facing questions over why it took 13 months to charge the men, with lawyers alleging evidence had been ‘withheld’ by officers before the trial.
This included messages taken from the victim’s phone hinting that she may have consented.
The rape case collapsed on the day it was revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last year dropped more cases than in any of the previous five years. The damning figures revealed that one in
every eight Crown Court cases – more than 12,600 – were abandoned before they had even started.
Last night amateur jockey Mr Martin criticised the ‘devastating’ police investigation.
He said: ‘If they had done their job properly it would have been over a long time ago and I would have years of my life back.’
His barrister Edward Henry accused officers of ‘airbrushing’ and ‘cherry-picking’ evidence and said there will need to be a review.
He added: ‘We need to know the answers to some questions. Why this should have gone on for so long as it has? Why it took 13 months to decide to charge these defendants in the first place?’
Mr Henry had told the court there had been an ‘ absolute failure’ by a police officer ‘to take notes except for self- serving acts on occasion’.
He said: ‘There are two notes where sexual behaviour has been mentioned to the officer and these notes have never made their way into the defence material.
‘He has vandalised the trial process. It is broken and cannot be fixed.’
The young men were arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault after the drunken sex session on the night of the ‘Mad Hatters’ May ball at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in 2014.
A ‘pornographic’ video of the act was shared on social messaging app Snapchat – leading the woman involved to tell police she had been raped. The young men were facing prison sentences of more than ten years if they had been convicted.
But it emerged on the eve of the trial opening that the police had failed to reveal that the alleged victim had given ‘different accounts’ as a witness to an alleged rape on an Army base in October 2014. The alleged
‘Guilty until proven innocent’
rapist was a soldier but he was later cleared.
Detectives were also said to have ‘buried’ text messages sent by the woman which said she was worried she would ‘look bad’ if the sex tape got out.
Mr Martin yesterday spoke of his relief. The amateur jockey said he had been ‘devastated’ to be arrested and to have the charges hanging over him for two years, adding: ‘I didn’t feel like it was real. It was hard, very hard. It’s always been there.
‘It’s changed the way I think about things. I look at people in a different way now – a bit paranoid. It’s harder to trust anybody.
‘It has been hard, really hard for the families. It is a big relief for everyone. I’m relieved but annoyed it got this far.’
The son of a farrier said the police had treated the men as ‘guilty until proven innocent’. He added: ‘It just seems like something out of the 80s. you don’t expect to see the police do this to better themselves.’
Mr Martin said it was ‘frustrating’ that the woman behind the claims remained anonymous under law while the defendants were named and shamed.
He said: ‘She is twisted – she really is. To try to do that to four people just to save her name – I am lost for words.’
His parents Andy and Julia, from the tiny village of Swerford near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, said it had been ‘ very distressing’.
Sobbing, his mother said: ‘I have seen my son change. The day we heard the case was closed, I got my son back.’
Melanie Duff, 54, whose poloplaying son Thady had been accused of three charges of rape and one of sexual assault, said the two-year ordeal had been ‘horrendous’.
Mrs Duff, who runs a livery in rural Wiltshire, said: ‘Today is his first day of starting to rebuild his life. It is something which has been hanging over their heads. There were some things they couldn’t do and some places they couldn’t go.’
The former Tory councillor for Swindon council added: ‘It has just been horrendous. Anyone who has had anything like this will be able to understand, but their names have been cleared now.’
Three of the men were students at the university and they were suspended in their final year. They have been unable to collect their degrees.
A defence source last night said the police investigation had also been ‘detrimental’ to the woman who made the claims. He said: ‘To egg someone on, to give them unrealistic expectations – it sends out a dreadful message to women who have been raped and who will feel scared or reluctant to come forward.’
A spokesman for Accused.me. uk, the support group for victims of false allegations, said the young men should have been given life-long anonymity unless they had been convicted – just like the woman who made the complaint.
He said: ‘Why should their lives
be for ever associated with these disgusting allegations?
‘The next time they go for a job, or go on a date, these stories will stick to them.
‘The fact that they were put on a trial which then collapsed illustrates the hell that many thousands of us are put through by the police and legal system each year.’
A hearing will be held at a later date to consider defence legal costs. None of the men is currently a student at the agricultural university.
A Gloucestershire Police spokesman said it would be ‘inappropriate to comment’ because it was waiting to hear ‘the specific detail’ of the criticism by the defence.
A CPS spokesman said: ‘The CPS has a duty under the Code for Crown Prosecutors to keep cases under continuous review.
‘During the course of legal argument at the beginning of this trial, information came to light which meant that we were no longer satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.’
THE collapse of the case against four students at the Royal Agricultural University who were put through ‘hell’ after being accused of rape raises profoundly troubling questions.
The police will have to explain how evidence favourable to the defendants and casting grave doubt on the credibility of their accuser came to be ‘buried’, and was not supplied to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Extraordinarily, 13 months elapsed before a decision was taken to charge the students. While the speed with which the case crumbled in court may be of some comfort to them, it cannot compensate for the deep injustice of their being charged in the first place.