THE trial of a man accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in a car has been halted following ‘flaws’ in the police investigation.
The 26-year-old from Coventry, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to raping the girl in March last year.
He also denied an alternative charge of sexual activity with the 14-year-old.
And after having the matter hanging over him for 18 months, he was told by judge Sylvia de Bertodano: “You are not guilty of this offence, and you leave with a completely clean slate.”
It had been alleged by prosecutor Dean Kershaw that the man had raped the girl after getting into the foot-well of the passenger side where she was sitting.
Barrister Patrick Maggs, defending, had claimed there was no case to answer.
The judge observed that all the evidence came from the complainant, with no corroborating evidence, which she said was ‘often true in cases of this kind.’
Judge de Bertodano commented: “There were a number of flaws in the police investigation, the most serious one being that although the complaint was made only eight days after the supposed offence and the clothing she was said to have been wearing was handed in, no forensic examination of that clothing took place.”
The court heard a decision not to have the girl’s clothes examined had been taken because of the cost involved.
The judge pointed out: “That deprived the defendant of the opportunity to say there was no forensic evidence to link him.”
Of other failings, she said: “No statement was taken from the friend to whom the first complaint was made. That is despite the fact that the complaint to her mother was inconsistent with the complaint she made to the police.”
Telephone records ‘plainly did not support’ a prosecution assertion that there had been intimidation.
And she observed that the size of the defendant ‘casts great doubt on the account given by the complainant of how the offence was committed.’
Before making her complaint, the girl had said she would ‘do him,’ and Judge de Bertodano concluded: “It is the kind of case where I would feel extremely uncomfortable were there to be a conviction.
“The prosecution evidence taken at its highest is such that a jury properly directed could not convict. I must stop this case and remove it from the jury.”
Accepting the judge’s decision, Mr Kershaw agreed there were ‘inconsistencies’ in the evidence.
One account given by the girl was that it happened in the bedroom of a house, when there was no evidence of them ever having gone into that address, and another was that it had happened in a car in a country lane.