If your son is a young man who is straight, then be afraid. The victimhood culture that is now driving institutional assumptions that it is always the woman who has been wronged, that it is always the man who must be lying in cases of rape and sexual assault is now quite a force for putting an innocent man behind bars for a long time. The ‘crime’? Having consensual sex with a woman he would have been better not to have set eyes on. In other words, a woman who is a liar.
It emerged last week that Liam Allan, 22, narrowly missed going to prison for ten years, possibly more, on a rape charge. His trial collapsed when it was revealed that police had withheld evidence which conclusively proved his innocence. Officers apparently believed that the woman’s 40,000 text and WhatsApp messages, hundreds of them discussing her fantasies about rape and violent sex, pestering Mr Allan for casual sex and telling friends she was devastated he did not want to meet her again, were of no interest to either the prosecution or Mr Allan’s lawyers. Just read those words again – ‘of no interest to either the prosecution or Mr Allan’s lawyers’. Chilling.
Prosecuting barrister Jerry Hayes said he had been told by police that the phone records contained on a disk were not disclosable because they contained ‘very personal material’. Mr Hayes added: ‘It appears the police officer in the case had not reviewed the disk, which is quite appalling.’
As a result of this failure, Mr Allan found himself in a Kafkaesque nightmare. He was identified in court proceedings (his accuser, of course, was not) and remained on bail for two years.
As if that were not bad enough, this week we heard that another rape case had collapsed on almost identical grounds. Isaac Itiary, 25, spent four months in jail awaiting trial. The girl involved was 14 and 15 at the time of the alleged offences, but Mr Itiary said that he believed she was 19. His defence asked for details of her text messages in September but only this week were they provided by the police – and they showed that she routinely posed as a 19-year-old. A couple of days ago an MP’s aide, 24-year-old Samuel Armstrong, was cleared of raping a Parliamentary worker in a Palace of Westminster office. Mr Armstrong’s lawyers accused the CPS of allowing the woman effectively to run the case, and of failing to hand over phone and medical records until days before the trial began.
The Met has now announced a review of all pending rape cases.
These are only the latest cases of young men being cleared of sex crimes. In September George Owen, 21, was found not guilty of forcing himself upon a 19-year-old woman after they left a bar together. The week before that, a couple of other cases fell apart. Bartolomeo Joly de Lotbiniere, 22, a York University student, found himself in court after his accuser saw him on University Challenge and decided it might be a bit of a lark (aided and abetted by social media trolls) to make a malicious rape claim against him, even though it was 14 months since they’d had sex. He was cleared. Joshua Lines, 23, was found not guilty after being accused by a fellow student who had invited him into her bed.
How have we got to this place? It is now practically an article of faith when it comes to allegations of sex crimes that women are always the victims, always the wronged party, always the truth tellers. This in turn means that the accused is automatically considered to be guilty until he can prove his innocence – a reversal of the principle of British justice that a defendant is innocent until proved guilty. Just take a look at TV and radio drama and see if you can find one about rape where it turns out the woman was the criminal, the perverter of justice, and not the man. We women, poor little things, just cannot look after ourselves. To make things better in our lives, to empower us properly, we need the authorities such as the police to turn a blind eye, get a bit confused and worn down by that whole wearying matter of ‘disclosure issues’, and sacrifice a few innocent men. It’s a shame, but it’s for the common good. We just have to think of these jailed innocent men as collateral damage in the battle of the sexes. I mean, women have been done down enough, haven’t they, since the beginning of time, and this is payback. Live with it. Live with the fact that the police and CPS may now be, in the words of Angela Rafferty, QC, chairwoman of the Criminal Bar Association, ‘unconsciously biased’.
There will be the usual investigations and urgent reviews, just as there are when a child dies at the hands of her drug-addled, violent parents. There’ll be handwringing that it’s all because of cuts to funding and lack of resources. Indeed there was a report in July by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate saying that police and CPS blamed ‘limited resources and lack of time’ for the inadequate disclosure of evidence. This was a failing that led to more than 50 cases being scrapped between 2013 and 2016. The inspectors added that such problems had been known about for many years and were pessimistic about improvement in procedures, warning that ‘the likelihood of a fair trial can be jeopardised’. Lessons seem rarely to be learned, unhappily.
Ms Rafferty says the Liam Allan case ‘happened because the police and CPS lack resources to check the “unused material” properly’. Yet it wouldn’t have taken that much time and money, surely, to have checked the plaintiff’s phone (bearing in mind that smartphones are indispensable to young people and almost certainly contain material shining light on their thought processes) and found the texts to exonerate Mr Allan.
Instead of that, public funds have been squandered, Liam Allan has spent two years on bail in anxiety and fear, and all for nothing.
A couple more thoughts, though. First, rape is a serious crime and therefore maliciously to accuse a person of rape is equally serious. The woman in the Liam Allan case now faces investigation for attempting to pervert the course of justice. If found guilty she ought to face a lengthy custodial sentence. One hopes also that she is so ashamed of what she did that she will try to make amends by involving herself in a campaign to bring in anonymity for rape suspects until found guilty. The current system with only the accuser (yes, sometimes a liar like her) having their identity protected is indefensible. It must change.
Second, sex is dangerous; some people even prefer it that way. It can bring physical and emotional harm. At the very least it may get you into a tricky situation. That’s why it’s not for children; it’s for grown-ups. A number of rape cases are always going to be problematic, simply because it’s one person’s word against another. Just because it’s problematic, however, is not a justification for bias in the accuser’s favour. In the fortunate event that there is material on the ubiquitous smartphone to prevent a miscarriage of justice, for crying out loud, can it please be passed on to the defence team? Is that too much to ask? Maybe it is, given that this latest scandal over non-disclosure is described as the ‘tip of the iceberg’.