Proper independent investigations
The police generally still refer to complainants as victims.
How can that not affect the mindset of a police officer dealing with the case? The label ‘victim’ indicates they have suffered, that something has happened. At the stage the police initially get involved it is an investigation. An open minded investigation into whether an offence has been committed and if so by whom.
By calling the complainant a victim it impacts the posture the police take. They are no longer investigating but are protecting a victim, pursuing justice for a victim and locking up the bad guy.
I have been in 1000’s of interviews in the 30 years I have been doing this job, very little has changed about the way the police ‘investigate’. Too often they arrive with their version of the truth, which generally is that they have the right person and that the complainant is telling the truth (how else can she be a victim unless she is an honest witness?).
Taking that version of truth they then look for evidence to prove that the person in front of them committed the crime (again they automatically assume a crime has been committed). They put forward evidence that proves he committed the crime. When evidence is put forward that indicates he hasn’t then they ignore that because it cannot be correct because it doesn’t fit the story. If he tells them it was consensual they ask ‘why would she lie?’.
There is an in built assumption that anyone who is arrested for an offence has a motive to lie, so if they give a statement contrary to the complainant (sorry ‘victim’). Then they have to provide a motive for the complainant to lie.
If a suspect says they weren’t there when the alleged crime happened they are asked ‘do you have any proof of that’? ‘do you have an alibi’?. No complainant is ever asked when giving a witness statement ‘do you have proof you were at his house, hotel, car etc’?. It is automatically assumed she (it’s normally a woman) is telling the truth.
When the case gets to court the police are supposed to hand over all disclosure that might help the defence. This can include social media, text messages etc. Routinely these things aren’t looked at. Why? The assumption of guilt. The assumption that there is not going to be anything in the complainants phone that would help the investigation.
There was no systematic checking of the phones to see whether, for example, there is a text message after the alleged offence happened that would suggest she was not as traumatised as she suggests. A text from the complainant to her best friend saying ‘great night last night, have some gossip for you’ doesn’t of course prove that nothing happened, she may have sent that text for a number of reasons and still been upbeat notwithstanding the allegation she has made and the statement she has given that she is traumatised. It would be wrong to suggest all genuine victims act the same but a text like this, or the possibility of it’s existence is something a proper balanced investigator would make. It doesn’t prove it didn’t happen BUT THE DEFENCE DON’T HAVE TO PROVE IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. It’s worth putting that in capitals to remind us that the prosecution and the prosecution alone have to prove it happened. Not only is this the way it has been for 100’s of years but it is the right way. A suspect normally cannot prove that nothing happened. It is almost impossible to prove a negative.
What a text like this does do is suggest that maybe something didn’t happen and the defence should be provided with that so that investigations can be made.
Thankfully things are changing and phones are routinely being interrogated and I believe it is right that this is happening.
Sexual offences are horrible crimes that ruins lives and people should be punished properly for them. No one is suggesting guilty people should get away with these offences but equally innocent peoples lives can be ruined by false allegations and it is right that a proper and full investigation is made.
If you have been arrested and do not feel there is a proper investigation call us on 01623 397200 for a free initial review of your case.