An accused child rapist has walked free after police were caught withholding crucial evidence from lawyers for the second time in a week. The defendant was released after prosecutors offered no evidence in court.
It is understood that evidence recovered from the phone of the complainant by police was handed over to defense lawyers for Isaac Itiary, who had been accused of raping an underage girl, undermining the prosecution’s case.
Police have a duty to disclose evidence to prosecutors and the accused’s defense team. In the Itiary case, one source with knowledge of the proceedings told The Guardian that “the Met could have moved quicker. They were a bit slow.”
Itiary’s abortive trial is the second time that rape charges have been dropped following a string of possible police errors. Last week, student Liam Allan was cleared of rape and sexual assault charges in similar circumstances.
Allan, 22, was charged with 12 counts of rape and sexual assault, with his trial collapsing after police were ordered to hand over thousands of phone records that had been withheld from the prosecution and defense teams. The 40,000 messages were between Allan’s accuser and her friends, revealing that the alleged victim had pestered the man she accused of rape for “casual sex.”
One text message, allegedly sent to a friend weeks before Mr Allan was arrested, reportedly said “it wasn’t against my will or anything.”
Both bungled cases involved the same investigating police officer. The detective remains on full duty in the sexual offences investigation unit, as confirmed by the Met. The Met has confirmed that a review of all digital evidence for any open sexual assault case will now be undertaken.
“As a precaution, every live case being investigated by the child abuse and sexual offences command, where the MPS (Metropolitan police service) is in discussion with the Crown Prosecution Service, is being reviewed to ensure that all digital evidence has been properly examined, documented and shared with the CPS to meet obligations under disclosure,” the Met said.
A spokesperson said the force could not say how many cases that the review of gathered evidence would involve. The Met would not disclose who would carry out the review, or how many officers and staff would participate.
Itiary, 25, was charged with child rape in July.
“Isaac Itiary was charged with the rape of a child under 16, and other offences, after consultation with the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) in July 2017,” the Met said.
“Since then the MPS investigation team has been working closely with the CPS to progress the investigation and provide full disclosure.
“In response to the defense case statement received by the officer in the case on 15 December, all material was reviewed to identify any further relevant information likely to assist their case. This resulted in the identification of relevant material which was passed to the CPS to disclose.
“Given the time elapsed between the charging decision and receipt of the defense case statement, the MPS will carry out a review of this investigation to ensure that all reasonable lines of inquiry were pursued at the earliest practical opportunity.”
The Crown Prosecutor Service confirmed that previously requested but as yet unseen evidence had been dumped on legal teams on Sunday – two days before Itiary was set to have his day in court.
“Prosecutors decided that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction and we offered no evidence against the defendant at a hearing today,” the CPS said on Tuesday.
Prosecutors said the new material meant the Itiary case no longer met the threshold test applied when the decision is made to prosecute.
“A decision to charge under the threshold test must be kept under review, and prosecutors are required to take account of any change in circumstances as a case develops,” the CPS added.
The two disastrous rape cases are public embarrassment for the Met. Commander Richard Smith, who oversees rape investigations, said police force is committed to a public review.
“I completely understand that this case may raise concerns about our compliance with disclosure legislation given the backdrop of the case of R v Allan last week,” he said.
“The Met is completely committed to understanding what went wrong in the case of Mr Allan and is carrying out a joint review with the CPS, the findings of which will be published.
“Rape investigations are by their nature very complex, and often hinge on the contradictory accounts of the alleged suspect and the complainant about what has taken place. We are reviewing all our investigations, where we are in discussion with the CPS, to assure ourselves that we are meeting our disclosure obligations in an acceptable timescale based on the volume of data that some cases involve.”