Warren Blackwell’s rape conviction was overturned after a CCRC investigation discovered the complainant had:
- Made at least 5 other fake allegations of sexual and physical assault to police
- Had been married twice and made false allegations against both husbands, one of whom was a policeman
- Had accused her own father of sexual assault, but police concluded she had made it up
- Accused a boy of rape when she was a teenager, only for a doctor to discover she was still a virgin.
INNOCENT asks: why did the police not discover or disclose this evidence before the original trial, or preferably before Mr Blackwell was even charged?
IPCC publishes findings from investigation into Warren Blackwell’s complaints against Northamptonshire Police
Jun 18, 2010
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is today (Friday) publishing its findings in respect of complaints against Northamptonshire Police made by a man whose conviction for indecent assault was quashed by the Court of Appeal, following a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).
Warren Blackwell, who has always maintained his innocence, was imprisoned following a trial at Northampton Crown Court in 1999 but the conviction was overturned in September 2006.
Subsequently Mr Blackwell made a series of complaints about the police investigation which were referred to the IPCC, and an independent investigation began in mid-2007. The IPCC’s investigation, which ended in March last year, has upheld a number of complaints made by Mr Blackwell including that Northamptonshire Police failed to disclose crucial material which may have undermined the prosecution case and assisted the defence in the original criminal trial.
The IPCC found failings by three Northamptonshire Police officers who had a case to answer on misconduct grounds. The final report was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who proposed that no criminal action should be taken against any officers. The IPCC submitted its investigation report in March 2009 to Northamptonshire Police for consideration as to any disciplinary action against officers. The force gave their initial response to the IPCC seven months later in October, but it has taken until now for Northamptonshire Police to finalise an apology and resolve disciplinary matters. The IPCC agreed two officers, a detective chief inspector and a detective sergeant, should receive management words of advice. A third officer, a detective constable, whom the IPCC believed should have faced a full misconduct hearing, retired from the force in April this year. The IPCC Commissioner overseeing the investigation requested an apology to Mr Blackwell be delivered in person by the Chief Constable. The acting Deputy Chief Constable has met with Mr Blackwell and delivered a letter of personal apology from the Chief Constable. IPCC investigators have met with Mr Blackwell to go through the report’s findings.
IPCC Commissioner Amerdeep Somal said: As the Court of Appeal has ruled, Warren Blackwell was subject to a terrible miscarriage of justice. Nothing can bring back the three years four months he wrongly spent in prison. I am dismayed that Northamptonshire Police has taken so long to issue an apology to Mr Blackwell that he has patently deserved. On top of weaknesses in the original police investigation, a detective failed to disclose to senior officers, the CPS or the defence, crucial information about the credibility of the complainant – all factors which contributed to the wrongful conviction. I requested that the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire withdraw the commendation given to the detective constable by the former Chief Constable for the original investigation, and this has not happened.
I have also expressed my deep dissatisfaction to Northamptonshire Police for the unacceptable length of time the force has taken to resolve disciplinary matters from this investigation. Such unnecessary delay is neither in the public interest, nor in the interest of all those involved, including the police officers. During that period of time a detective who I determined should have faced a misconduct hearing has retired from the force. In the light of the seriousness of these matters and the injustice done to Mr Blackwell I am making the IPCC’s investigation report public.”
A woman alleged she was violently sexually assaulted outside a social club in Northamptonshire in the early hours of 1 January 1999 following a New Year’s Eve party. The woman subsequently identified Warren Blackwell as her attacker. Mr Blackwell denied the allegation but was convicted of indecent assault on 7 October 1999 and initially sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. At an appeal against the leniency of the sentence in March 2001 the Court of Appeal increased the term to five years’ imprisonment. In October 2002 the case was referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and an investigation undertaken on their behalf by a different police force.
The CCRC findings led to the Court of Appeal quashing the conviction on 12 September 2006. The judgment stated: The complainant had previous convictions for dishonesty. She has made other allegations, including allegations of sexual assault, to the police which, when investigated were considered to be false. The complainant has a demonstrable propensity and ability to lie….. There is evidence that was not adduced at the trial that, when considered as a whole, provides a strong case to support the conclusion that the complainant was not the victim of any assault and that her injuries were self-inflicted.”
The IPCC’s investigation reviewed a large amount of documentation recovered from the CCRC, Northamptonshire Police, the CPS and from Mr Blackwell and his representatives. The IPCC interviewed five Northamptonshire Police officers under caution, spoke to officers from Leicestershire Constabulary and West Midlands Police, spoke to witnesses in the original police investigation and considered their statements, spoke to a barrister and CPS lawyer involved in the prosecution and reviewed transcripts from the trial.
The investigation found a number of complaints made by Mr Blackwell not to be substantiated against individual officers, including: that officers failed to accurately record evidence of a number of prosecution witnesses; that an identification parade failed to comply with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act; that officers deliberately provided false information to another force investigating another allegation by the same woman.
However the IPCC investigation substantiated Mr Blackwell’s complaint that Northamptonshire Police failed to disclose material which may have undermined the prosecution and assisted the defence. The investigation found that an officer from another force had expressed concerns to a Northamptonshire detective, both before and after Mr Blackwell being charged, as to the reliability of the alleged victim. The officer had previous experience of the woman through another criminal case to which she purported to be a witness. The officer said the woman appeared to ‘enjoy police attention’, that there were concerns over the woman’s honesty, and any allegation would need corroboration. Notes taken by the Northamptonshire detective show the words ‘unreliable’ and ‘unstable’ relating to the woman. However there is no evidence to show the Northamptonshire detective ever passed the information on to his senior officers or the CPS. The CPS were though aware of the medical history and a previous conviction of the victim, and decided not to disclose these matters to the defence.
The IPCC investigation also found that there were a large number of serious discrepancies given by the alleged victim in her accounts of the sexual assault and the evening’s events and these appear not to have been challenged by Northamptonshire detectives. In the absence of forensic evidence linking Mr Blackwell to the alleged victim, the lack of challenge points to a poor quality police investigation. Police also failed to take statements from two witnesses, seen by IPCC investigators, who told police they walked past the scene of the alleged attack at the given time and saw nothing taking place.
The IPCC investigation also found that, while Mr Blackwell was in prison, a Northamptonshire detective failed to take timely steps to make senior officers and the CPS aware of further information about false complaints by the same woman with striking similarities to Warren Blackwell’s case.
– ENDS –
Notes for editors:
Police apology for wrongful conviction of Warren Blackwell
A man who spent more than three years in jail for a crime he did not commit today described an apology from the police force that helped convict him as “too little, too late”.
Innocent man jailed for 3 years over false rape claim – despite police knowing ‘victim’ was a fantasist
A report revealed yesterday that officers were told Taylor was ‘unreliable’, ‘ unstable’ and craved attention – but they failed to disclose it at his trial. His conviction was quashed in September 2006 when it became clear that not only did Mr Blackwell not commit the crime, it never took place.
Northants Police Blackwell errors apology ‘too late’
The IPCC probe found failings by three officers who had a case to answer on misconduct grounds. But the CPS proposed no criminal action should be taken, the IPCC said. One officer has retired and two others will now receive “management words of advice”.
Sex attack liar named by Peer
The original investigation by Northamptonshire Police was exposed as shoddy, with Mr Blackwell’s lawyers claiming that normal safeguards and procedures were completely ignored. He plans to sue.