Ian Watkins and Jemma Beale: both cases should make us uncomfortable about our justice system

There were two disturbing pieces of news last week.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission produced a report on the handling by South Wales Police of complaints against the Lost Prophets singer Ian Watkins. In a nutshell, the IPCC found that over the course of several years the police failed to take complaints and intelligence about Mr Watkins’s seriously. As a result this most unpleasant and dangerous of paedophiles was able to continue his practice of filming, drugging and raping very young children when he could and should have been stopped.

The other news was about a woman called Jemma Beale who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for perjury and perverting the course of justice. Ms Beale had falsely claimed to have been raped by a man called Mahad Cassim. He was duly prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, while Ms Beale collected £11,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. She then went on to make false accusations about 14 other men, one of whom fled the country after being charged with participation in a gang rape that never happened.

On the face of it these two cases have very little in common: they appear to demonstrate diametrically opposite faults in policing. In the Watkins case the police were unduly sceptical, and in the Beale case they were unduly credulous.

In fact, in their own ways each case demonstrates an aspect of the same serious problem in the criminal justice system, one which it is often more convenient to ignore. That is the flawed assumption that there is some infallible, or even reliable, means of telling when someone is lying. Academic studies have shown time and time again that the reliable detection of lies based on the demeanour of a witness or suspect is impossible; yet our current criminal justice system depends on maintaining the fiction that juries are able to do just that. Meanwhile, too many police officers seem to be infected with the notion either that all complainants must be believed, or conversely that a copper’s hunch is good enough to weed out the liars; both of which beliefs are likely to produce injustice if they are allowed to influence the conduct of investigations.

Watkins, it is now known, was a man addicted to the most appalling sexual offences against children. He eventually pleaded guilty to attempting to rape and conspiring with others to rape, along with a catalogue of other child sex offences. He received a richly deserved 29 year prison sentence.

After he was sentenced it emerged that the South Wales Police – and other forces too – had information that could have led to Watkins’s discovery and prosecution as early as 2008 (he was not in fact arrested until late 2012). Much of the evidence eventually used against him came from his computers which, astonishingly, contained more data storage capacity than the entire South Wales Police computer network. But it was evidence of a much simpler type that was first presented to the police, and it would not have required them to analyse a single byte of his 27 terabytes to realise that Watkins merited a closer look. It came from his “on/off girlfriend” Joanne Mjadzelics who repeatedly reported to the police that he had drugged and raped young children. In 2009 she even had a message from him on her phone reading:

‘WISHLIST RAPE A 12 YR OLD FUCK TWO UNDERAGE TWINS’.

As the IPCC report drily observes:

The message corroborated Ms Mjadzelics’ allegations that Watkins had expressed desires to abuse children.”

Other witnesses and anonymous “tip-offs” followed, and they too were ignored.

Why was this information not followed up and investigated?

The answer is not entirely straightforward. The IPCC rejected the idea that Watkins’s “celebrity” status protected him in some way, although a “pre-emptive” phone call from his solicitor, warning the police that Mjadzelics was harassing him may have deterred them to some extent. Nevertheless, the fundamental reason was an assessment made by a single detective in 2008 that Mjadzelics was an untrustworthy witness. She was a sex-worker and a drug user who continued her relationship with Watkins despite knowing of his sexual interest in children. In addition, a member of her family had told the police that she had a history of “fabricating” evidence. As the report put it:

… [she was] ultimately, not believed because of early assessments about her credibility, based to a significant degree on some early evidence from one of her relatives around her vulnerabilities.”

When more, apparently independent, intelligence reported similar concerns about Watkins, up on the computer screen popped Mjadzelics’s “malicious” complaint. Even when she returned with yet more specific, damning complaints about Watkins, she was ignored again. An email she sent to the police in 2011 could not have been any clearer:

[Watkins is] raping at least one 5yr old girl on a regular basis and sometimes he doesn’t do it alone, he has at least one female accomplice, and has texted me pictures of him raping her.”

It too was ignored, except to put a note on the computer:

Mjadzelics has made a number of allegations against IAN WATKINS (30/7/77) a member of the band ‘Lost Prophets’. None of which have been substantiated. They are ex-partners and separated some time ago. Allegations are continuing and officer to be cautious if they are contacted by Mjadezilcs [sic]. Officers to be cautious if contact is received from Mjadezlics [sic].”

Of course the reason that none of the complaints had been substantiated was that none of them had been investigated, and the reason none had been investigated was that at an early stage Mjadzelics had been assumed to be an untrustworthy troublemaker.

One of the officers concerned observed that in his experience “a large percentage of [child abuse] reports are false and at times malicious.” He feared that launching a high-profile investigation on the basis of faulty evidence might damage the reputation of the force. Indeed this might seem an even more understandable concern today, given the Metropolitan Police’s recent embarrassment over Operation Midland and the Wiltshire Police’s still unfinished high profile, high risk investigation of Ted Heath. Nevertheless, for an officer to take it upon himself to declare that a witness is a malicious troublemaker without carrying out the most basic checks on her allegations is just as much a dereliction of duty as to make a public (or for that matter private) declaration that a witness is “credible and true.” To refuse to act on the reports of a witness reporting child abuse because there are many false reports is just as nonsensical as to uncritically accept an allegation of rape because (as is often asserted) “women hardly ever lie about rape.”

And therein lies the link between the two cases because lying about rape is exactly what Jemma Beale did.

Her first and principal victim was Mr Cassim. In November 2010 she accused him of raping her while giving her a lift home. The poor man was first kept in what must have been an agony of anguish until his trial at Isleworth Crown Court in December 2011. Some of the jurors – more than two is all we can say – had their doubts about Beale, so the jury as a whole was “hung,” unable to agree. As is normal in such cases the CPS elected to have another go, and Cassim was convicted at the retrial in January 2012. His seven year sentence equated to the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s “starting point” for a rape with at least one feature indicating “higher culpability.”

One of Beale’s supporting witnesses was her partner, Anuska Pritchard. I haven’t been able to track down exactly what evidence she gave. She was obviously not an eye-witness to the rape – which of course never happened – so it seems most likely that she gave what until a few years ago was known as “recent complaint” evidence. (Under an exception to the general rule against “hearsay” evidence witnesses are sometimes allowed to give evidence of what a complainant said to them about an attack. Originally this was restricted to complaints of a sexual assault made in the immediate aftermath of the incident – hence “recent complaint” – but since the Criminal Justice Act 2003 this requirement has been relaxed). What it means is that the prosecution can, and very often does, call evidence to show that the complainant has told a friend that she has been raped. Sometimes – we don’t know if this happened here – it may be combined with evidence that a “victim” seemed in distress. It is not “independent” evidence because it ultimately comes from the complainant herself, but it is the sort of thing that can help to persuade juries that a complainant is telling the truth.

Ms Pritchard told The Sun:

I had nursed Jemma through her ‘ordeal’ supported her, cradled her in my arms while she wept … I remembered sitting in the court at the rape trial with Jemma and her family, all huddled together waiting for the verdict to come through. Jemma had been giving Cassim the ‘evils’ while he sat in the dock. She was delighted when he got found guilty.”

Beale put a slightly different spin on her “delight” in a grotesque “victim impact statement,” which was put before the sentencing judge:

“I feel that any sentence he receives will never reflect the life sentence that he gave me.”

All this was an act. About a month after the trial Beale admitted to a disgusted Pritchard that she had made the whole thing up for £11,000 compensation. £11,000 is indeed the figure available from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority for “non-consensual penile penetration of one or more of vagina, anus or mouth by one attacker.” Bureaucratic language outlining pitiful compensation for a genuine victim, but a useful windfall for a fraudster. We don’t  know what she spent it on.

Ms Pritchard says that at this point she told her mother, Sam, who texted Beale the message: “How do you sleep at night knowing that an innocent man is behind bars?” An acrimonious exchange of text messages followed.

Beale’s response was to go back to the police, complaining that she was being harassed. The police took her side, and warned Sam to stop contacting her, threatening her with arrest if she continued. As Sam asked: “I don’t know why the police didn’t even bother to ring me to ask me why I’d sent the texts, they just took Jemma’s word for why I’d done it – just like they took her word about the rapes.”

(As an aside, the complaint of harassment successfully deployed as a means of deterring a legitimate police inquiry carries a faint echo of Ian Watkins’s solicitor’s complaint of harassment against Joanne Mjadzelics when she first went to the police).

Doubtless encouraged by a system in which her lies had brought her money as well as attention and sympathy, Beale waited only six months before repeating her crime. She accused another stranger called Noam Shahzad whom she had met in a Hounslow Pub. She claimed that he had groped her in the pub and had then been part of a gang that raped her in a nearby medical centre car park. Mr Shahzad was charged, indicating that the CPS believed that despite the lack of corroborative DNA or CCTV evidence there was a “reasonable prospect” of securing his conviction. No doubt they were influenced by the apparent corroboration provided by scratches that Beale said she sustained during the assault, which later turned out to have been most likely self-inflicted with wire taken from a hanging basket.

Mr Shahzad took what, with the benefit of hindsight, may have been the sensible precaution of jumping bail; he left the country before facing trial. Had he been convicted she would no doubt have claimed the appropriate compensation, probably the slightly larger sum of £13,500 based on having been raped by multiple attackers, while he would almost certainly have been given a significantly longer sentence than Mr Cassim. All other things being equal, gang rapes attract longer sentences than single person rapes.

Mr Shahzad’s flight did not bring Beale’s offending to an end. Fifteen months later in September 2013 she claimed to have been sexually assaulted by two men near her home. No-one was arrested this time but two months later on 17 November she made her final allegation, again of a gang rape by four men, two of whom she named. They were arrested, but at long last the police started to have serious doubts about Beale’s honesty. The men were not charged, and instead the police turned their attention to Beale. According to the CPS it took the police 6,400 hours of work and cost at least £250,000. At the trial Beale maintained her innocence but was convicted. CCTV evidence, her admissions to Pritchard and medical evidence that she had self-inflicted injuries all corroborated the sworn evidence of the men whom she had accused.

Within the space of four years Beale had claimed to have been seriously sexually assaulted by six men and raped by nine. Every one of those claims was a fabrication.

The full sentencing remarks of HHJ Loraine-Smith have not been published, but much of the comment on the case has focused on his observation that:

cases such as this bring a real risk that a woman who has been raped or sexually assaulted may not complain to the police for fear of not being believed.”

That may be a risk, although anyone reading the details of the case would probably be more struck by how many times Beale was believed when she was lying. It took two trials and fifteen allegations before the police as a whole seem to have had any real doubts about her reliability. Had she contented herself with a single victim and a mere £11,000, or even 2 victims and a mere £24,500, there seems very little doubt that she would have got away with it.

The CPS statement on the case made a similar point to the judge’s:

False allegations of sexual assault and rape are rare but, when made, they are serious as they undermine the credibility of genuine victims and the efforts of the CPS and police to see perpetrators brought to justice.”

Leaving on one side the question of whether false allegations are in fact all that rare, it is rather odd to perceive Beale’s behaviour as serious primarily because of the potential effect it might have on notional complainants. The main reason that false allegations are serious is surely a more obvious one: they cause immeasurable damage to real and identifiable people. Mr Cassim was gaoled and Mr Shahzad effectively exiled. Two other men must have been horrified and terrified to be arrested on suspicion of a gang rape. False allegations, just as much as rape or sexual assault, destroy lives.

Something seems very badly wrong here. It would not necessarily be right to blame the police for being too credulous, or for failing to investigate properly. I am well aware that a little knowledge of a case is dangerous, and that making assumptions based partly upon a story in the Sun is very foolish. Nevertheless, this is a terrible case and one hopes that the many questions which spring to mind will be addressed by a proper internal or preferably external inquiry. For example:

Did the police actively look for evidence which might undermine Beale’s initial allegation against Mr Cassim or assist his defence? Did they have in mind their duty set out in paragraph 3.5 of the Code of Practice under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 to “pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry, whether these point towards or away from the suspect”?

When, within weeks of Cassim’s conviction, information was given to the police which suggested that Beale had lied at her trial, what was done to investigate it?

Why, instead of warning Anuska Pritchard’s mother for harassing Beale, did the police not look at her phone which contained potentially relevant exchanges of text messages?

When Beale made the allegation against Shahzad, was it properly investigated? Were officers investigating the Shahzad claim made aware of the Cassim case, and if so were they also made aware of the allegations by Ms Pritchard’s mother that Beale had lied?

When was the CCTV from the medical centre – which the CPS says undermined Beale’s allegation against Shahzad – obtained? If (as one would assume) it was shortly after she made the complaint in 2012, why was she not investigated for perverting the course of justice at that time? Were the police or the CPS too ready to assume that – “because false allegations of rape are rare” – whatever the CCTV might say, she could not possibly have made the whole thing up.

Until questions like these are satisfactorily answered it is difficult to avoid the strong suspicion that even if the case was properly brought at the time, the police closed their minds to the possibility that Mr Cassim and Mr Shahzad might be innocent. It is a mirror-image of the problem demonstrated in the Watkins case: a failure to investigate arising from the assumption that a particular witness must be believed.

The case also raises two specific questions about the prosecution of sex cases. I realise that I’m departing a little from the central point here, but the great advantage of a blog is that I’m allowed to do that, especially when nobody else seems to have asked them.

The first is the issue of anonymity.

Two of the counts of perjury of which Ms Beale was convicted related to her evidence (at the trial and the retrial of the Cassim rape allegation). She had claimed that she would never willingly have had sex with a man because she was exclusively lesbian. In fact, as the CPS statement on the case made clear, after the trial it was discovered that in fact she had had a “sustained sexual relationship” with a boyfriend. Beale must have been emboldened to assert that she “would never willingly have sex with a man” because she knew that she would remain anonymous. Even if he heard about the case, her previous boyfriend would not know that she was involved in it and would therefore be unable to contradict her. Her anonymity thus made it much easier for her to lie, at least about that issue. The unfortunate Mr Cassim, a complete stranger to her, would have had no means of knowing that she had had sex with a man before. What is more, Beale’s subsequent victims would have been in the same state of ignorance if her allegations had ever reached trial.

There are powerful arguments for permitting complainants in sex cases to remain anonymous but, as this case demonstrates, the price paid for that anonymity can be high, and it is paid by the innocent.

Secondly, the case has implications for the woefully misguided campaign headed by Harriet Harman to prohibit the defence, in any circumstances, to cross-examine about a complainant’s “sexual history.”

Even under today’s highly restrictive rules, cross-examination about sexual history requires the permission of the judge. Without being too technical about it, there are numerous hoops through which the defence must jump before a judge can grant such permission. In R. v. B. [2007] Crim.L.R. 910, for example, a case of homosexual rape where consent was in issue, the defendant was refused permission to adduce evidence that a complainant had had previous homosexual experience because the “questions were predicated on the principle that previous consent was evidence of current consent.” That case would probably not cover the situation in which the complainant is herself making a positive assertion that she would never have sex with a man, but even under existing law it is certainly not a foregone conclusion that cross-examination about a previous heterosexual experience would necessarily be allowed.

Now let’s imagine that Harman’s law had been in place at the time of Beale’s trial. Let’s also imagine that somehow the defence had obtained information that she was lying when she said she was exclusively lesbian. In this brave new world the defence would be forbidden by law from challenging this part of her evidence. Even with the ex-boyfriend willing and able to come to court, Harman’s law would have rendered Beale’s perjury unchallengeable. Any attempt to rebut it would be met with the response that the defence were trying to cross-examine about a complainant’s sexual history. There is no universe in which such a trial could possibly be considered fair.

Ultimately, however, the questions of anonymity of complainants and the rules of cross-examination, important though they may be, are mere details. The bigger question is whether juries – or for that matter judges – can safely be entrusted with ruling on guilt in cases which turn largely or mainly on the credibility of complainants, and most particularly of a single complainant. The position in English law is now clear:1

… it is open to a properly directed jury, unequivocally directed about the dangers and difficulties of doing so, to reach a safe conclusion on the basis of the evidence of a single competent witness, whatever his or her age, and whatever his or her disability.”

With respect to Lord Judge, this attitude is profoundly dangerous. Where a case depends solely on one person’s word against another juries are sometimes being asked to do something impossible: to decide for sure that one person is telling the truth when there is in fact no rational basis enabling them to reach such a conclusion. Supporters of the present system may argue that there are in fact few cases in which there is no evidence other than that of the complainant. To this there are two answers. First, if there are in fact very few such cases then little is lost by amending the law such that uncorroborated “he said / she said” cases can no longer be brought; or at least that they could only be left to juries with a stern warning, perhaps equivalent to that given to juries in identification cases. Secondly, in some of the cases in which one person’s word is pitched against another, apparently corroborative evidence turns out, on examination, to be no such thing. Beale herself, for example, scratched her skin with wire to bolster her own lies.

Until 1994 there was a rule that juries should always be warned in sexual cases that it was dangerous to convict on uncorroborated evidence. It was widely regarded as a pretty incoherent rule, partly because it was restricted to sexual cases, partly because it required the judge almost to invite the jury to see the complainant as a liar and partly because the rules about what evidence “counted” as corroboration eventually became so arcane as to be almost incomprehensible. Nevertheless, the rule encouraged the police to search hard for corroborative evidence (in other words to investigate) and in practice it undoubtedly prevented some weak cases from being put before juries. In Scotland, the requirement that all cases should be corroborated remains a “cornerstone” of the criminal law, despite attempts to abolish it. Supporters of the law sometimes point to English miscarriages of justice as a reason for retaining the rule, although Scottish courts do not have an unblemished record in that respect.

The Watkins and the Beale cases in their own ways should be deeply troubling to the criminal justice system as a whole. Unfortunately, complacency about the excellence of the English and Welsh criminal justice system has for centuries been one of the most characteristic flaws of those who practise in it, and all the indications seem to be that both are regarded as isolated special cases from which no general “lessons” can be learnt. Watkins is safely behind bars – where he should have been years ago. Individual officers may pay the price for not pursuing him earlier. One must hope that lessons really have been learned about why the investigation took so long to get going despite the police being fed with information that could have stopped an evil man in his tracks. At least there has been an inquiry by the IPCC.

As for the Beale case, it seems to have been written off by the CPS and the police as an exception with no general lessons for the way sex cases are prosecuted. It is true that CPS Rape and Serious Sexual Offences units (“RASSOs”) do now operate under legal guidance which stresses the importance of “case building” but this is very much with an emphasis on obtaining convictions as opposed to pursuing impartial investigations. The only lessons learned from the Beale case seem to be the dubious ones that false allegations are “rare” and that uncorroborated cases must still be pursued. I hope I am wrong, but there seems to be no suggestion that there will be any inquiry at all into how Beale – like Watkins – was allowed to continue her offending for so long. “Don’t worry,” seems to be the message, “our justice system may have been utterly useless in detecting Beale’s lies, our juries may have been bamboozled by a greedy, dishonest, amoral cheat, but that doesn’t really matter. Greedy, dishonest, amoral cheats are so rare that that we don’t need to worry that we aren’t much good at spotting them. Let’s carry on assuming that almost all complainants are genuine.” It’s certainly more comfortable to make that assumption.

Sadly, the inconvenient truth is that until the police and CPS recognise that false allegations are not just “rare events” but are real and dangerous problems in the justice system, the lives and liberties of innocent people like Mr Cassim and Mr Shahzad will continue to be sacrificed in pursuit of the guilty. That is not justice: it is institutionalised injustice.

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Author: Matthew

I have been a barrister for over 25 years, specialising in crime. You may also have come across some of my articles I have written on legal issues for The Times, Standpoint, Daily Telegraph or Criminal Law & Justice Weekly

43 thoughts on “Ian Watkins and Jemma Beale: both cases should make us uncomfortable about our justice system”

  1. I am not a lawyer so this may be unworkable.
    Instead of the Police taking the view that those complaining of sexual assault and rape should be ‘believed’, would not the authorities be better changing that to ‘be taken seriously and investigated properly’?

      1. As an internal auditor, my conclusions about a business control must be backed up by independent, documented evidence. If the control owner is unable to provide independent, documented evidence that a control was performed, I am required to conclude that the control does not exist and the control owner is held accountable.

        It is interesting that in criminal cases, where the risk of catastrophic damage to an innocent defendent’s life is so much greater, such rigour is not required.

        As a juror, I would discard any police or CPS claims unless they were backed up by evidence from genuinely independent parties. The Mark Pearson case is a classic instance where the absence of police and CPS integrity very nearly led to the trial of a patently innocent person.

        1. I think that you meant conviction not trial as there was one lasting 3 days. What is particularly disturbing is that the CPS slowed the CCTV down to make the period of contact seem longer.
          Then there is the case of David Bryant, the retired fireman jailed for a 35 year old crime that never took place. There seemed to be ample evidence that his accuser was a fantasist, even fabricating evidence that he was on Olympic boxer, but Mr. Bryant was only cleared because of his wife’s determination and free legal and investigative work.
          Even with mental health problems the accuser did seem to be motivated by money; £50,000 from the CICA and a civil claim for£200,000.

  2. Not sure if you’re being a little blase in accepting the official line about the “depravity” of Watkins. Reading between the lines of the court case he seems to have become (like many others these days) obsessed with ideas and imagery about sexual perversion. The evidence about attempted rape seemed based around the creation of an image, as if he was going to do something, rather than that it was actually going to happen.

    All downright unpleasant but I do feel a psychiatric, and drug-fuelled problem rather than physical crimes took place. He was also noted as having engaged in featuring in homosexual porn videos whilst in America. Again, all this seems based on a drug-fuelled visionary obsession. There also seemed good reason to infer that the children involved may have been his own and as the sentences of the women indicate, he was aided and abetted by partners also engaging in these fantasies. It was noted within the court reporting as I recall, that no injuries whatsoever had been detected on any of the children.

    Mark Williams-Thomas became entangled with the Mjadzelics woman and it does seem that the Watkins affair became inextricably entangled with the Savile hysteria being promulgated within the British legal establishment. Watkins had become an icon of a campaigning hospital charity as well. He did come from a religious family by the way.

    1. Small point =- Don’t need to have ‘injuries’ when sexual assault has taken place. Frequently there are no ‘injuries’ in even quite violent assaults (and how would you find them years later – or if the victims are not located?) and even common-or-garden sexual contact CAN leave noticeable injuries. so this has no probative value. Common misconception.

    2. I agree with you. Watkins was clearly delusional because of drugs and the situation he found himself in. I don’t think he was hiding in plain sight which is the implication. I think he probably suffered some sort of narcissistic disorder whereby he just followed the train of thought on his sick fantasies. I suspect that had he not been a rock star he’d just be in the pub leering over women he couldnt get. He’s a twat, but in the scheme of things he’s probably just a twat who has suffered for psychoactive addiction.

  3. Excellent! I hope copies are sent to Harriet Harman and to the Home Secretary. I would also suggest a copy is sent to the IICSA now that it is calling in unsubstantiated rumour and gossip as ‘evidence’.

    Too many presuppose that allegations in the area of sexual abuse are true whereas the response should be to discover what is/what is not the truth. I fear that with financial resources limiting police numbers we shall see more cases where investigations have sought merely to gain a conviction as opposed to shining light on the truth.

  4. False allegations are staggeringly common. What is rare is that the Police prosecute anyone who makes them. This is, IMO, largely because the Police “encourage” people to fabricate evidence to support their case ; in the long ongoing trawling investigations it is normal practice to feed names, dates, details.

    The “false allegations are rare” comes from the number of successful prosecutions (close to nil, however blatant the lies).

    I wonder if feminists would accept that rape was rare if the Police refused to prosecute anyone charged with it ?

  5. Excellent piece, Matthew. You’re doing us a great service.

    The following comment is, I know, of no immediate practical relevance but I make it anyway.

    In some countries, eg the Netherlands, the Beale cases would be tried by three judges rather than by a jury. The great difference is that the judges’ verdict has to be supported by a text showing the working that led it. With a jury nobody knows how the evidence was evaluated to reach the verdict. If the judges’ text explicitly states that the verdict is largely based on belief that witness A was telling the truth, then any evidence at a later time that A was not a truthful person must obviously cause the verdict to be overturned. Thus injustice can be remedied more readily in a judge-based system.

  6. In your post you say,

    “…for an officer to take it upon himself to declare that a witness is a malicious troublemaker … is just as much a dereliction of duty…”

    While I agree with your statement in principle, I don’t think the officer can be blamed for doing what they’ve been asked to do. There should be no way that a single officer, regardless of ability/rank/etc, should be able to have this effect of discrediting a witness in perpetuity.

    Even if that office was in a position to discredit this piece of evidence, the officer who saw the next complaint shouldn’t have written it off based on the previous officer’s opinion.

  7. Just one factual point. Criminal injuries compensation does not depend on the conviction of the alleged perpetrator of a crime. You have to convince the CICA, on the balance of probabilities, that a crime occured. Hence it is perfectly possible to get compensation even if an accused is acquitted. And hence Beale could still have got compensation forthe second false allegation even though Mr Shahzad never stood trial.

    As an aside, the CICA could now seek to reclaim the monies paid to her, though I doubt she has any real assets.

  8. I’m a little disturbed by all this discussion about Beale’s sexual orientation. A very large proportion of gay and lesbian people have a history of opposite-sex relationships. Sexual orientations can be fluid, some people have gone through a period of experimentation, and some people have fallen under immense social pressure to have opposite-sex relationships. OK, maybe her testimony did explicitly contradict the evidence (e.g. maybe she said that she had never been in a relationship with a man), but your article, and most of the others I have read on this case, seem to be labouring under the assumption that “Beale is a lesbian” and “Beale once had a consensual relationship with a man” are contradictory statements. The general impression I get from this case and the recent trans “sex by deception” case is that the whole legal community is still hopelessly ignorant about LGBT people.

    It would also be nice for you to discuss the exact conditions in which victims can be cross-examined about their sexual history and why it is important that it is allowed under these conditions, and whatever evidence you have that false rape allegations are widespread, instead of simply belittling Harman and those who say that false allegations are rare.

    1. I have blogged in more detail about cross-examination on sexual history, and especially about HH’s attempt to restrict it further. I make no bones about it: I think it is extraordinarily misguided. http://barristerblogger.com/2017/03/26/hariet-harmans-proposed-ban-sexual-history-evidence-grotesquely-unfair/?fdx_switcher=true

      I don’t think I’ve belittled anyone in this blog & I’ve consciously avoided the very tricky subject of how rare false allegations of sexual offences are. Of course if Ms Harman would like to comment either here or on Twitter I will happily engage with her. Sadly she has chosen not to do so, so I don’t know what her answer is to the sort of hypothetical situation discussed in this post.

    2. Jay – “It would also be nice for you to discuss… whatever evidence you have that false rape allegations are widespread”

      Stand back Matthew, I got this one… If you type ‘false rape allegations’ into a search engine, the very first result is the Wikipedia article on the subject. In it is a table showing false reporting rates determined by a range of academic studies and collections of statistics. For example, FBI figures show a consistent 8% false rape and sexual assault reporting rate over several years (compared to 2% for other crimes). Kelly, Lovett & Regan (2005) also found a false reporting rate of 8% in a report commissioned by the Home Office, titled “A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases.” Kanin (1994) found a false reporting rate of 41% where one of the criteria was that the subject admitted to making a false report. Several older studies found rates of 18 -24%. The variation is due to differing definitions of “false” and different methods of deciding which incidents fall within that definition.

      Somewhere in the middle of the range is a 2002 joint report by Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary. It found a false reporting rate of 11.8% or nearly one in every eight reports of rape and sexual assault. That report must have been shared with the CPS and police: it is inconceivable that it was not. So when people from the CPS and police say that false reports are rare, they are lying: not mistaken or uninformed. Lying. PROSECUTIONS for false reports are very rare. The figures indicate that the police and CPS are knowingly letting hundreds of women, and a very small number of men, get away with perjury every year.

  9. The CPS statement shows a rather worrying mindset. Before reading the next paragraph I thought what about the real victim here, the falsely accused person. Do the CPS not care if innocent people are accused and even worse imprisoned?

  10. I don’t think it is being suggested that Beale’s sexual orientation is relevant. The salient point is that she lied about it. It would be as relevant if she had said she would never have had consensual sex with a red-head, male or female, and it turned out she had been in an active relationship with just such a person. (Other distinguishing stereotypes are available.) It was her false claim to be exclusively lesbian that was unlikely to be challenged due to her anonymity.

  11. False allegations are rare – maybe on Planet Harman. In fact, false allegations of rape and lesser sexual assaults are the biggest, and I mean the biggest, lie of our times.

    For those who haven’t done so, check out the Timeline. It includes the Mark Pearson case – which did go to trial. And cases of lesbians who have had sex with men then cried rape. We need to scrap not only accuser anonymity but ALL rape shield laws. The only times there should be anonimity is when the young are involved to protect families and avoid future stigmatisation; and celebrities when the accuser AND the accused should be granted anonimity to prevent the police and media pulling stunts as in the disgraceful Cliff Richard case.

    https://www.infotextmanuscripts.org/falserape/a-false-rape-timeline.html

  12. Your argument was going well until the “Harman law” rant where you somehow got the idea that the defence would be prohibited from adducting evidence that contradicted something important said by complainant in evidence. That flies in the face of English law and so would never be allowed even under “Harman law”. In other words you’ve gone full straw man.

    1. On the contrary, English common law has long had the principle that answers given in cross examination that go only to credit cannot be rebutted by further evidence. It is known as the collateral evidence rule. There are lots of exceptions, & it is often difficult to assess the boundary between collateral and essential issues, but the principle you suggest – that you can always call evidence to rebut an important lie – simply does not exist.

      1. Matthew – “…the principle you suggest – that you can always call evidence to rebut an important lie – simply does not exist.”

        On this narrow point, I trust that you’re correct. However… if the proposed Harman rules were to prevent a defendant from adducing evidence relevant to his defence, and he made the existence of the evidence known to the trial judge, the judge would be obliged to stop the trial because to continue would breach the defendant’s Article 6 right to a fair trial, particularly Art 6 3(d).

      2. You are usually quite good at avoiding legal jargon, but I am afraid you’ve lost me there. What does “go only to credit” mean?

        1. If a witness makes an assertion that the other side say is a lie, evidence might be called suggesting that the witness is a person who should not be believed. Thus if, in the future, Beale were to make a genuine rape allegation, the Defence would no doubt call evidence as to the fact that she had made previous false allegations and therefore was not a person to be believed on this occassion. That would be evidence “going only to credit” – i.e. its not evidence about the incident in question, but evidence about her general credibility.

  13. ‘[Nazir Afzal] also says that officers are blinkered when approaching inquiries, which is “shameful” because they sometimes focus on a single theory or suspect even if there are indications of a different possibility. His notes say: “They do not understand following reasonable lines of enquiry including those that point away from the defendants/suspects.’

    ‘Lazy’ police fail to grasp law, says top prosecutor’, The Times, 17th July 2017 (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/lazy-police-fail-to-grasp-law-says-top-prosecutor-zqgn0rv07)

  14. It does get difficult when you get to whether juries can be entrusted to decide. Requiring corroborative evidence begs the question: how compelling should such evidence be? Ultimately many cases will continue to depend on resolving whom to believe. How likely is it that a “stern warning” by the judge will help? A jury is already told they have to be sure before convicting: if they’ve listened to the judge on that, they shouldn’t convict if they find it impossible to tell who’s telling the truth. Perhaps the real (and difficult) issue here is whether more judicial intervention is needed, whether before the case is left to the jury, during the deliberations, or at the appeal stage (something on which I’ve written about before – Lurking Doubts Remain – (2012) 176 JPN 313).

  15. Coming a bit late to this through vacational diversions but (whatever the actuality of Watkins’ sordid crimes) it is a very well argued blog highlighting some of the major presumptive flaws that have mushroomed over the last 25 years. Because these flaws are never seriously addressed they have become worse and – were the criminal justice system a plane, it would have fallen out of the sky. Frankly the ’98-9 /1-2 percent’ rhetoric has been an absolutist mantra from the the late 1980s. I think it is based on notional statistical error rather than fact to lend a semblance of plausibility – it can be adapted to any purpose – ’98 per cent of sex offenders/offences never convicted/detected etc etc’ I worked out through nominal research that these figures were presumption working from the desired end to the speculative base. But nobody cared and they still don’t – which means there is a will to believe the most awful things even when not well-founded. And a callous disregard of the real effects of the inevitable mistakes (both ways) on all parties.
    Re the corroboration direction – it was of course this which allowed the lowering and circularity of the ‘similar fact’ rules which became aggravated and embedded into statute – Criminal Justice Act 2003 ‘bad character’ – even though the mandatory warning had been abolished by statue in 1994. And the general go ahead to historic cases in the ‘Abuse of Process’ cases around the early 90s (Ag Ref 1990 – don’t have specifics here) which has been further weakened through statute and rulings was predicated as being just and reasonable on the jury being appropriately and properly directed – which of course at the time included the corroboration direction.
    Re the number of false allegations – of course none of us know how many there are! The CPS (if they count at all rather than the process i outlined) only include those proven to be false which is usually contemporaneous cases where CCTV etc demonstrates falsehood. The rest – including acquittals are excluded from the figures and lumped with the ‘true’ allegations.
    Many years ago I interviewed the then head of Childline – I asked how many hoax calls they got – she looked askance and said – we don’t call them ‘hoax calls’ we call them ‘testing calls’ because we think they must have something to say about abuse to call. So clearly a) they knew they had hoax callers b) they regarded them as ‘true calls’ under another description and c) they appeared in their stats as ‘ abuse calls’. There was no stat in their figures for hoax calls under any description (even ‘testing’) . Furthermore, they would not know when a call was a false allegation even when not obviously ‘hoax’. But hidden within their figures it emerged that only a small percentage of all calls were about sexual abuse, disappearing to virtual invisibility to the under 12s

    Course this says nothing about the actual incidence, it’s true. But clearly the money raising ads of young girl doubled up on stairs etc are an exception in reality as to users. Courts, judges and juries are now so swamped by sex cases (mostly historical) that the sheer numbers have led to a belief in ubiquity – particularly where the claims are most extreme without any genuine corroboration. For a long time the situation has deteriorated to such an extent, with so many careers and reputations invested in it, that no-one dare to try and fix it – and if they do they are ignored or shouted down. It’s a class witchhunt scenario – and only when those ruling the roost become ‘victims’ of the false accs hysteria on a large scale, will there be any will to reform.

  16. Absolutely excellent and well balanced commentary; as a matter of interest, in answer to a Freedom of Information request – Surrey Police, one force, received 1670 claims of sex abuse in 2015 and interviewed them all, sending a mere 242 to the CPS, of which a fraction ended in conviction. Multiply those figures by all the forces in Great Britain and false allegations appear far from rare.

  17. It was supposedly GCHQ who ‘cracked’ Ian Watkins’ laptop. It was the head of GCHQ who told a parliamentary committee ‘We don’t want to delve into innocent emails and phonecalls, I feel I have to say this, I don’t employ the type of people who would do. If they were asked to snoop I would not have the workforce. They would leave the building’ two weeks before it was revealed that GCHQ had been delving into innocent emails, and snooping, on an industrial scale. False in one thing false in all.

  18. The public under estimate the breadth of these cases and the enormity of ruin not only to the accused but to his family. Social services are not open to the suggestion of innocence and will ask the man to leave the home where it is seen as serious enough. If the wife/ partner refuses on the grounds of her husband/ partner’s innocence ( and we have to assume most of these would not choose to live with a pervert) the next thing will be a care order for the children.
    Many in this position cannot speak up for fear of alerting more opportunists. This is especially the case for teachers and care workers.

  19. Is it possible we could reach a point where the geo data from your smart phone proves or – perhaps more importantly in light of above – disproves you were anywhere near an alleged incident? Sorry for the ignorance, but seems like an obvious aid in some circumstances and I just wondered.

      1. Unfortunately, if the defence successfully proves the defendant was elsewhere at the time of the allegation, the complainant often changes her story. Prosecution changes dates and times mid-trial and the judge gives no time for the defence to prepare a refutation of what is, in effect, a new charge. This happened in Rolf Harris’s trial, and in the trial of Jonathan King, who commented above, and it happens to many men who are not famous too.

        This flies in the face of Article 6 3 (a) & (b) and case law such as Mattoccia vs Italy.

  20. Extract from an article: Rape Juries Swayed By Own Experiences, in The Times yesterday:

    “Nearly half of jurors in rape cases come to a guilty verdict before they retire to deliberate, research shows. A total of 43 per cent of jurors make their decision in advance, with the figure at 83 per cent if they themselves had been the victim of a sexual offence. Deliberations did have some impact with 13 per cent changing their minds after discussion with fellow jurors, the research found.”

    1. Suggested solution: require juries to give a reasoned judgement. An irrational, unreasonable or logically incoherent reasoned judgement would then be a ground of appeal.

      1. As I suggested near the beginning of this thread a reasoned judgement would be highly desirable.
        But the only practical way of getting that is for a judge rather than a jury to decide the verdict.

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