A woman who claimed she was raped by her former boyfriend has been paid £7,500 in compensation – after police LOST vital video evidence.
The blunder caused the trial against her ex-partner to collapse when the Crown Prosecution Service was forced to admit there was no realistic prospect of conviction.
Known only as Ms D, the woman spoke yesterday of her “emotional nightmare” and has called on police forces to review their processes for securing video evidence.
She was handed the payout after Avon and Somerset Police accepted her human rights had been breached and agreed to the out-of- court settlement.
In 2011 Ms D gave two video statements at Clevedon Police Station about the abuse she suffered at the hands her ex-boyfriend between 2009 and 2011.
The man, who denied the allegation and cannot be named, was arrested in May 2012 and charged with three counts of rape and one of sexual assault.
But several months after her original interview officers informed her they had lost the tape, and asked her to record another.
In January last year, just days before the trial was due to begin, Ms D was told a prosecution could not be pursued after discrepancies had been discovered between the two pieces of footage.
Ms D said she now feels as if she will “never be able to fully move forward” and had been robbed of the opportunity to see justice done.
She said: “Towards the end of 2011 my new partner helped give me the strength to go to the police and report the abuse I had suffered from my ex-boyfriend.
“It was terrifying but I knew it was the only way I would ever have closure and be able to begin to put everything behind me.
“In summer 2012 I was told the original video had been lost and I would have to provide my evidence again.
“By this point I had undergone 10 weeks of counselling and was beginning to move on from my experience.
“I was prepared to relive everything again if it meant gaining justice so I did it and my ex boyfriend was charged a short time later, which I was very relieved about.
“But just days before the trial was due to begin I was told the case had to be discontinued as the CPS felt unable to prosecute because of the loss of the first video evidence.
“I feel like I will never be able to fully move forward with my life as I have been robbed of the opportunity to see justice done. It has been an emotional nightmare.
“Nothing can change my situation but I just hope that improvements are made to protect video evidence by police forces across the country as I wouldn’t want any other victim or vulnerable witness to go through the same horrific ordeal as me.”
Ms D later took legal action, arguing the force had breached her human rights.
Police guidance on investigating and prosecuting rape states: “Where an adult complainant of rape has been video-interviewed, the police should provide three copies of a recording and a Record Of Video Interview …to preserve their evidence at an early stage, and to protect them from having to continually repeat their account”.
But Avon and Somerset admitted the original video evidence was lost along with a working copy and began an investigation.
The force was unable to establish how the evidence was lost but acknowledged there was a flaw in the process for securing video evidence.
Fiona McGhie, of Ms D’s lawyers Irwin Mitchell, said: “Losing this vital evidence was an inexcusable error made by the police with devastating consequences for our client.”
Kay Wozniak, Avon and Somerset Police assistant chief constable, said: “This was a terrible ordeal for Ms D and we deeply regret the additional trauma she suffered as a result of our failure to secure the first evidence she gave.
“Her experience prompted us to carry out a comprehensive review of the recording, storage and management of video interviews.
“Now we store them digitally so that an incident of this kind could not happen again.”