Mon, 02 Dec 2019
A CROWN court judge has criticised police and prosecutors over their handling of a rape case.
A young man from Newbury, with no previous convictions, went on trial accused of raping and sexually assaulting a woman in his home last year.
After jurors took less than two hours, including a lunchbreak, to unanimously find him not guilty on both charges, the judge questioned whether his court ordeal had been necessary.
For, during the week-long trial at Reading Crown Court, it emerged that phone records showed the complainant had bombarded 21-year-old Sam Jaycee Goldstraw with affectionate text messages and even a sexually-explicit video after he had supposedly attacked her in his living room at Chestnut Crescent.
The prosecution had then “cherry-picked” from some of these and failed to investigate others that would have undermined their case, the court heard.
Mr Goldstraw had vehemently denied any sexual contact had taken place and told jurors the troubled young woman, who cannot be identified, made a series of wild accusations against him after he rebuffed her advances.
Abigail Husbands, defending, said it was a case of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.
She told the jury: “It’s scary, isn’t it, how easy it is for someone to make allegations against you? And you end up here.”
Turning to the way police handled the investigation, Ms Husbands said: “If Mr Goldstraw hadn’t pointed police in the direction of that video – and the other messages – you might think they would never have known.”
Prosecutors had “not bothered to look at the text messages properly”, said Ms Husbands, who added: “In a case as serious as this, is that good enough?
“Is it good enough that no one looked to find those messages? Or good enough that it was left to Mr Goldstraw to do so, having said all along ‘she’s harassing me?’
“Is it good enough he had to go through, with his lawyers, the context of those cherry picked messages the Crown has put before you?”
After jurors had delivered their verdicts, Judge Emma Nott revealed she had twice asked the prosecution to review the material provided by the defence.
And yet, she said, “a police officer, under oath, said this hadn’t been done”.
She said: “We’ve a young man of good character and a young woman with problems – the stakes could hardly be higher.”
Judge Nott said that, when the defendant “points to evidence and produces it and brings it to court and says ‘look at it’ and the judge looks at it and says [to prosecutors] please go away and review this case properly… where a court says it’s necessary and proportionate to look at this material, then it must be looked at”.
She said: “Two young people’s lives have been greatly affected.
“There’s a young man who may have gone to prison; a girl who was clearly vulnerable.
“It may have been much kinder to her for someone to take her aside and say: ‘We’ve looked through this material and we think a jury may not convict.’
“It might have been kinder than what’s going to happen this afternoon, when an officer will ring her and tell her the verdict and she will know she has been disbelieved.
“It’s about fairness to everybody in the proceedings.
“If a review had been thorough and dedicated, that’s one thing, but I can’t be satisfied on the evidence I’ve heard that it was.
“It’s about young people and their lives and what two young people have been through this week when perhaps they didn’t have to.
“I wish both young people in this case happy and productive lives.”