Michael Turner QC of the Garden Court Chambers Crime Team was first on the indictment and represented one of the defendants, Atiq Hussain.
18 defendants were arrested in March and April 2017 as part of the police inquiry, Operation Nautical.
Seven defendants were acquitted in December 2017 after a trial at Oxford Crown Court (Trial 1). The Crown Prosecution Service has now dropped its cases against the other defendants, so they were found not guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court, ahead of the planned start of their trial last week.
Media reports have quoted CPS spokesman Rob Singh, who said:
“At a hearing on 25 January at Blackfriars Crown Court, London, prosecutors offered no evidence in the case, following a further review which concluded there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction. This is not a disclosure failure. There was a proper and thorough approach to disclosure. This decision has been reached as part of the process of continuing review.”
Reacting to this statement, Michael Turner QC said:
“In Court, the Prosecution asserted that the Crown had offered no evidence as a result of further statements taken from the complainants which revealed inconsistencies in their evidence. This was surprising given that there were a myriad of inconsistencies in the complainants evidence on the face of the papers, which the Crown sought to explain away in Trial 1 as natural, given the age of the complaints and the number of them.”
“Further, following acquittals in Trial 1 the Crown asserted that there had been a full review of the case and they would still continue with the prosecutions in Trial 2. To many of us involved in this trial, this appeared to be yet another example of a trial floundering on the rocks of a broken disclosure process.”
“The defence were originally served with statements, exhibits and unused material in heavily redacted form. After the defence strongly contested the redactions, the statements were un-redacted, and so far as my client was concerned it revealed that redacted from the main complainants statement had been the comments “I was in a relationship with Atiq at the time” and “Atiq was not really like the others”.
“The Crown accepted these were unforgivable redactions and assured the Court it would not be repeated. We were promised that all the exhibits and unused material would be un-redacted and served. Despite several assurances that they would be, only four un-redacted pages of exhibits ever were. Why they were not has never been explained. Now the Crown has offered no evidence in the case we will never see this material. What they might have revealed about what other “unforgiveable mistakes” the Crown had made we will never know”.
“Whilst the Crown remain the judge and jury of their own disclosure processes, injustices will continue to occur affecting both victims and defendants. This investigation spanned at least two years and cost the tax payers millions of pounds. One suspects that the Crown, in blaming the complainants for inconsistencies in their evidence, simply did not wish their woeful disclosure processes to be further exposed to the scrutiny of the public eye”.
“Whatever the truth may be in the Crown dropping the case, it is certain that the redacted passages in the main complainants evidence denied Atiq Hussain the possibility of the Court dismissing the charges when they first became before the Court, and/or a successful bail application”.
Michael Turner QC was instructed by Mohammed Ullah of Ullah Law Associates. Thalia Maragh of the Garden Court Chambers Crime Team represented another defendant, Ahsan Raza. Thalia was instructed by Angella Porter Solicitors.