(CNS): Two local men accused of consistently sexually abusing a child in the family home have been acquitted after the judge pointed to the “gross incompetence” of the police investigation that undermined the evidence and prejudiced the defendants so much that he had no choice but to find the men not guilty on all counts. The two male relatives, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were accused of abusing the little girl from when she was as young as six or seven years old until she was around 12, when she revealed the abuse to an adult at her after-school club.
The case was heard without a jury by visiting UK judge, Justice Time Owens, who described it as a very “troubling case”. When he delivered his verdict via video link on Thursday, he made it clear that he did not think the child was lying.
Although he rejected the defendants’ claims that the child had made up the allegations of abuse to escape her violent mother, he said the problems in the massive delay between the victim making the complaint and the case coming to court made it difficult for him to be sure to the required standard of the men’s guilt.
Justice Owens was damning in his criticisms of the police investigation, which he described as incompetent. He made it clear it was the “inexplicable and inexcusable delays”, the failure to interview relevant potential witnesses and the loss of important notes by the police that undermined the case.
In the first unexplained delay, the police simply did nothing for some 18 months after the child gave video evidence. The judge said the “truly lamentable police response” after the child gave evidence meant that no witnesses in the house where the abuse took place were ever interviewed. As a result, there was no evidence to corroborate the child’s allegations, which were inconsistent and unspecified regarding times and places.
While the child lived in a small five-bed family home with 15 relatives, “cheek by jowl”, during the time period she claimed the abuse occurred, none of her other relatives there were ever questioned by the police.
The two defendants were not interviewed until more than 18 months after the allegations for a brief period, and there was another delay of approximately a year before they were charged. As a result of pressures on the court time-table, the case was heard some four years after the child was first interviewed.
The judge said he was left with no choice but to acquit due to those delays, as well as the missing notes, the lack of specific times and places regarding when the abuse occurred, inconsistencies in the young girl’s evidence at court compared with her earlier interviews, and the fact that it was difficult for the accused men to properly answer the vague charges.
He said that the defendants did not make an abuse of process application based on the delays in the case and the police mishandling, so no senior police witnesses ever appeared in court to explain the failures.
During the case the court had heard harrowing allegations about the abuse the child suffered, not only at the hands of her male relatives but also the violence inflicted by her mother, who beat her after she made the report. The court also heard how the child and her siblings witnessed their parents having sex as they had all shared a room and beds.
Despite the failures in the case, the child had been removed from the abusive home in the immediate wake of the allegations and was fostered by another relative.
Check back to CNS later today for a response from the RCIPS about the case.