Friday, August 11, 2006

Destroy the Evidence

I overheard a colleague talking about one of his cases today, he told his Client that the prosecution against him had been discontinued because the prosecution had destroyed the principal evidence in his case.

The Client was being prosecuted for possession of a prohibited weapon, which for the sake of simplicity was a gun. The gun had not been used in a crime, it was discovered during a house search. Unfortunately the Client did not have a licence for the gun.

The Client was investigated by the Police and then prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service. The case was moved from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court because it was so serious. Once the case was in the Crown Court someone decided it was appropriate to destroy the gun. Whoever decided to destroy the gun obviously had ultimate faith in the strength of the prosecution case but absolutely no regard for the rule of law.

From the outset of the case the defendant had told the Police that he did not possess a gun, and that he in fact had an air pistol. The Crown Prosecution Service were put on notice that the defence intended to get their own expert to examine the gun. I am mystified as to why the gun was destroyed. Someone from the prosecution clearly thought it was a good idea, maybe they have had second thoughts now?

Without allowing the defence to examine the gun the prosecution had shot themselves in the foot. No Court in the land would convict a defendant on the basis of evidence that could not be tested, particularly where the prosecution had been told that the defence had wanted to test the evidence from the outset.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

get real you tw** the pc or dc destoryed it because he got a memo telling him how much property he/she had and he ppv it

Anonymous said...

its about time you learned son,he had a gun and got off because of a stupid memo so i hope he shoots one of your freinds or family not mine

Gavin said...

The point I made in the post was this: "Whoever decided to destroy the gun obviously had ultimate faith in the strength of the prosecution case but absolutely no regard for the rule of law."

I do not deny that at some stage a decision has been made by an Officer with authority to make that decision - but whoever made that decision has a complete disregard for the law. Why destroy property that is still part of an ongoing case?

Did this defendant really walk away on a technicality? No. The evidence that he wished to be examined by a defence expert who had already given a preliminary indictaion that the firearms expert used by the prosecution was useless and commonly made mistakes was destroyed denying the right to a fair trial.

Do you really have to express yourself using language that might offend others? The posts I make here are supposed to be an insight in to the world of a criminal defence solicitor. I will obviously raise subjects and express opinions that others will not agree with.

Gavin said...

Anon said, "its about time you learned son,he had a gun and got off because of a stupid memo so i hope he shoots one of your freinds or family not mine"

Nice.

The Enforcer said...

I do wonder at the mentality of people who post such abusive comments on a blog like this. I mean, why read something that so obviously makes you angry?

I do read things that I disagree with, partly because it challenges the way I think, and partly because I have to read Home Office policy documents(!) But I don't read the Daily Mail, because I know it would be a waste of my time and achieve nothing other than a rise in my blood pressure.

Anyway, Gavin - keep up the good work; I enjoy reading your posts.

Gavin said...

Thanks Enforcer.

Anonymous said...

Gavin, as a PC I have seen numerous items of evidence destroyed prior to trial. Most recently a case involving an axe and lock knife. In todays police world property can be passed from one officer to another depending on who eventually ends up as OIC. Sadly officers receive numerous memos telling them to sort their property out by disposal or other means. I believe this more to be carelessness on the part of the OIC for not checking the property to the case rather than a complete ignorance to the rule of law. By the way I enjoy your post and agree there is no need for abusive language.

newseye said...

"No Court in the land would convict a defendant on the basis of evidence that could not be tested"

I'm sure dirtbag Blair will soon be rushing to close _that_ loophole!

Anonymous said...

Probably not, but my mind immediately thought aha! Corruption risk. Consider:

Criminal gets caught with firearm at home. Has a pre-considered defence of it being a deactivated/air weapon. Says this time and again.

Pays someone within the CJS (police/whoever) to destroy the evidence.

Walks.

Not say that this IS what happened, but what COULD have. Gavin, without giving away too much, did this individual have 'previous'?

c said...

Anonymous, it could also be suggested (again, not saying this what happened at all) that the prosecution had seen it, verified it was indeed an air pistol and 'lost' it in the mistaken belief that he had a better chance of conviction with only testimonials from the police. Both are forms of corruption but which is easiest?

c said...

or of course it could simply have been a huge mistake.

reflectingdippy said...

i agree being a cynic my guess and opinion would be that the police are so unorganised it was bound to happen anyhows on a slightly lighter matter the guy who said i hope he shoots your friends and family not mine i would be careful cos if my legal knowledge is right that could be misconstrude as a threat and therfore come under incitement to murder or a technical point of breach of the peace as it could be causing offence to a reader

(if i have this wrong please do let me know )

Richard said...

Anon has missed the whole kernel of English Criminal Law! A Criminal trial is not laid on to see whether the accused is guilty or not: it is simply to see whether the Prosecutor can prove his charge(s) with admissible evidence, so that the jury is "sure" of his guilt. As a defence advocate I often used to end my closing speech, "..and if, finally, you think that my client probably did it, then it will be your joy to acquit him, because "probably" is well short of "sure"! The accused is not under the slightest obligation to participate in the trial at all, other than entering a plea. If he choses to pick holes in the prosecutor's case, then fine!

Free Thinker said...

As a non lawyer even I know the standard of proof is 'beyond reasonable doubt', not 'all doubt' or even 'all reasonable doubt', therefore 'probably' fits the standard, the first description and 'sure' fits the next: 'all doubt'.

Mel said...

I know that this is late, and that the people concerned may never see this, BUT I feel that I must berate anon #2. This is not the bigots anonymous site. Next time you wish to post bile like this, take it elsewhere, and at least have the courage to identify yourself, although I think that you have posted before with an identity, and may well have been banned for such bigoted, unnecessary rubbish.

Making idle threats such as this does not denigrate the blog, merely the poster, and since you hide behind your anonymity, you obviously care about that somewhat.

Gavin, one answer would be to ban anonymous commenters, although I guess the determined will still find a way to post such hate filled nonsense. Please don't let this idiot put you off writing, this is a well informed and informative blog.

It is a shame that yet again it is one idiot that proves that we need rules and regulations to account for the lowest common denominator.

Grr

David Brett said...

Hi
Recently visit your blog and reading this story I have seen numerous items of evidence destroyed prior to trial. Most recently a case involving an axe and lock knife. In todays police world property can be passed from one officer to another depending on who eventually ends up as OIC. Sadly officers receive numerous memos telling them to sort their property out by disposal or other means. I believe this more to be carelessness on the part of the OIC for not checking the property to the case rather than a complete ignorance to the rule of law. By the way I enjoy your post and agree there is no need for abusive language.Do you really have to express yourself using language that might offend others? The posts I make here are supposed to be an insight in to the world of a criminal defence solicitor. I will obviously raise subjects and express opinions that others will not agree with.For more details visit us at:-Conveyancing.