Practice and Procedure

R v (1) PFS (2) EBB (3) BJC (2003)

PUBLISHED December 3, 2003

New information given by a complainant at her post trial interview cast such doubt upon her credibility that convictions based upon her evidence were set aside. A re-trial was not appropriate because of the lengthy periods already spent in prison.Appeals against conviction from three of four co-accused who were convicted on 10th July 1996 of sexual offences against two young girls ('J') and ('C'). The medical evidence that both girls had been sexually abused was accepted. At trial the only question was whether or not any of the individual defendants had been guilty of such abuse or other sexual abuse as to which J and C testified. In a lengthy post trial interview given on 26 July 1996 J made substantial further allegations of a broadly similar nature against many other persons. There were some 18 persons in all whom she involved. Following the post-trial interview the police sought the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service. Their advice was that there should be no further prosecutions because the lateness of the allegations, their content, and timing threw doubt upon the credibility of J to such an extent that there was no realistic possibility of conviction. Accordingly the appellants appealed their convictions.HELD: (1) By the end of her pre-trial interviews J had stated that she had told all she knew by way of complaint. The post-trial interview went directly to the question of her credibility for three particular reasons: (i) it provided copious material which appeared inconsistent with the previous allegations; (ii) it raised the possibility of confabulation in relation to various of the incidents described or the identity of those involved; and (iii) it transformed the role of J's mother into somebody who was actively involved in what went on. If J's accusations against others in her post-trial interview had come to light before the trial the trial may have been conducted differently. (2) At trial the appellants did not have the opportunity for cross examination and positive suggestion of confabulation or mistake which would have been available had the contents of the post-trial interview been known. (3) The verdicts of guilty would be set aside. In the light of the lengthy periods of imprisonment which the appellants had already served, an order for re-trial was inappropriate.Appeals allowed.

[2003] EWCA Crim 3435