Avoiding a Prosecution: Historic Sexual Offences

By Admin in Latest News on

A person who makes a complaint to the police is referred to as the “complainant”. However, the police often refer to this person as the “victim”. But this does beg the question as to who is the victim? In other words, is the complainant always the victim

We have probably all heard about people who make complaints to the police that they have been assaulted. The police may spend many weeks or months investigating the alleged offence only to find that the allegation is completely false. Often people making such false allegations have mental health issues. They may have an attention seeking disorder or simply want to ‘punish’ an ex lover who has found a new partner.

Therefore, where a false allegation has been made, the complainant (the person making the complaint to the police) is not in fact the victim. In this scenario the real victim is the person accused.

Please refer to the video that accompanies this blog. It was made as I was travelling back from a police station where I had represented a client who had been accused of a serious sexual assault going back some 18 years. The initial disclosure of evidence that I obtained from the police referred to the person making the allegation as the “victim”.

But at this early stage how do the police know if the complainant was actually assaulted all those years ago, and, even if she was, what if the wrong person has been accused?

Why would someone make a false allegation?

In my experience, and in summary, there are three main types of complainant:

  1. A person who has been assaulted and is correct in their identification of the person who assaulted them
  2. A person who has been assaulted but is mistaken as to their identification of the person who assaulted them
  3. A person who has not been assaulted at all.

Point number two above can be a particular problem in historic cases where many years have passed from the date of an assault to the reporting of it to the police. Memory can be affected over time and a person’s mental health may deteriorate, making them believe, for example, that you have assaulted them when you have not.

Point number three above can arise in any case. A person may make a false allegation of a sexual assault that happened years ago or yesterday. 

So why do people makes complaints to the police when no offence has taken place?

Around 25 - 30 years ago I used to work as a lecturer in law and made a number of lectures / presentations to professions relating to criminal evidence and mistaken identity. Where possible I would involve psychiatrists, psychologists and psycho-analysts to take part. This was because the mental state of a person was (and still is) so closely linked to law and the commission of offences. 

Many people committing offences have mental health problems. In fact I would argue that the reason many people commit offences is directly because of mental ill health. However, in my view, it is also true that many people who report allegations of sexual assaults also have mental health problems. This can result in a person making inaccurate or untrue allegations to the police.

The psychiatrists, psychologists and psycho-analysts that I worked with all those years ago could very clearly explain the reasons why false allegations were made to the police. Even today, when I act for clients as a solicitor, I often involve expert psychologists, etc, to analyse the evidence and background of the complainant. This can result in very strong defence evidence.

A person making a complaint to the police who is suffering from false memory syndrome, or any other mental health problem, can be very convincing - because they truly believe they have been assaulted by the person accused. This is why it is important to use specialist solicitors to assist with your case. We are able to make representations to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to explain why the complainant’s evidence is flawed and, importantly, why in our opinion the prosecution should be dropped. This will not be considered by the police or CPS unless you put forward the defence!

I have dealt with numerous cases involving allegations of serious sexual assaults, including rape, where we have successfully defended the case because of what we uncovered relating to the background and mental health of the complainant. We have recently defended a client who was charged with several counts of rape against a young girl. The case went on for over two years but during this time we were able to uncover several issues relating to the background of the complainant, including evidence that she had mental health problems. After a four day trial it took the jury just 20 minutes to find our client not guilty of all charges.

In passing, it is also important to note that in this case we not only involved expert psychologists and psychiatrists (for the reasons discussed in this article), but we also involved experts to analyse the social media and phone records of the complainant. Unless you look and check for evidence to assist the defence then you may never find it!

I am often contacted by new clients who were represented by a ‘duty solicitor’ at the police station. This is usually following an unexpected raid by the police and arrest. The police will usually want to interview the suspected person and will offer a duty solicitor (a person contacted by the police to give you free advice). Interestingly, this person may not actually be a solicitor but could be an ‘accredited representative’. 

You should always carefully consider the accuracy and quality of the advice given to you by the duty solicitor. You may have been told by the duty solicitor to just sit tight and wait for the police to investigate the allegations. You may have been told to wait until you are charged before you contact the duty solicitor’s firm for further advice and representation. My advice is please don’t! Contact a specialist law firm as soon as possible after any contact with the police - whether or not you have used a duty solicitor.   

How PCD Solicitors can help you

It is very difficult to live with the stress and uncertainty whilst you wait to hear from the police. And if you are charged with an offence then you could be in court for your first hearing within a few weeks of being charged. When we act for a client at an early stage, prior to any charging decision being made by the police or CPS, we are able help our client cope with the stress, provide detailed advice, consider the available evidence, start to investigate the background of the complainant, involve expert psychologists and forensic experts (DNA, phone data, social media data, etc), and liaise with the police and CPS. Our aim is to try and convince the police and / or CPS to drop your case or downgrade the seriousness of any charge.

At PCD Solicitors our initial telephone consultation is always free of charge. We will always give you open, honest and accurate advice right from the start. In most cases we will be able to act for you on a fixed fee basis, meaning you will know the exact cost of our assistance before you decide whether or not to instruct us.

Please call Marcus Johnstone direct on 07808 553555, or call my office on 0151 705 8488. You can also email you details (any a summary of your case) to: info@pcdsolicitors.co.uk.