Fresh Gynaecological Evidence: Conviction Quashed

28 Jun 2012

The Court of Appeal has today handed down judgment in R v S & Ors [2012] EWCA Crim 1433 (28th June 2012). S was linked to the other 3 cases which were referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. The court was considering the scenario where fresh gynaecological evidence is called after conviction which demonstrates either the evidence of abuse given at trial was untrue or was significantly undermined. This might be due either to simply wrong expert work or developments in the interpretation of the signs of sexual abuse. S, B and C had their convictions quashed, but R, due to other fresh evidence against him, lost his appeal.

The Court concluded in S, who was convicted in 2002 at Truro Crown Court of Rape, Attempted Rape and Indecency, that all of his convictions were unsafe. The prosecution expert at trial alleged damage to the complainants genitalia consistent with sexual abuse. Fresh evidence heard at the appeal cast serious doubt on those findings.

The Crown accepted the fresh evidence but sought to argue it only related to certain counts and other counts remained safe. The Court however agreed with submissions made on behalf of the appellant that the evidence of the expert at trial went to the heart of the case and that evidence must have weighed heavily in the jury’s consideration.

As Mark Barlow, instructed counsel for S, pointed out “the medical evidence at trial shone like a beacon”. The Court of Appeal adopted that analogy in its judgment [70] in quashing the all convictions.

This case demonstrates the importance of thorough investigation in sexual offence cases and that evidence of sexual abuse should not be accepted on face value. It also demonstrates that the Court of Appeal will always be open to receiving such fresh evidence which clearly undermines the safety of the convictions.

S was represented by Mark Barlow of Garden Court North Chambers, instructed by Mark Newby and David Crossling from QualitySolicitors Jordans.

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