Feb 7

When things are not as simple as they seem


JB had been in trouble many times over many years. He was well-known to the courts and the local police. Addicted to drugs and accused of robbery, he was facing 7 years in prison.

His prospects seemed bleak: his accuser had gone straight to the police station after the incident alleged, naming JB as the robber. He had injuries to support his story. And when JB was arrested a few minutes after the first report to the police, despite trying to run off, the victim’s phone was found on him. JB had gone on to answer “no comment” to all questions in the police station. His previous convictions for theft and assault were set out for the jury. JB’s girlfriend, also arrested, also facing trial, had placed JB near the scene of the crime, but undermined JB’s account.

Against expectation the victim came to court, animated and adamant about what had happened. The police too, it seemed, had no doubt – after all they had arrested the named suspect and known criminal at the scene. Yet JB was clear there had been no robbery and that the complainant was not to be trusted. The reality was the complainant was not only a drug user himself but a convicted thief and drug dealer too. And there had been another fight reported at the same time just next to the alleged incident… JB’s case was simple – the complainant had been supplying him with drugs before becoming annoyed at being teased, leaving his phone behind because he was high on crack cocaine. There had been no robbery (even if JB may have been in less of a hurry to return the phone than he suggested).

Careful questioning during the trial showed the complainant and his account were not reliable. Details from the prosecution evidence and unused material (obtained during an investigation but not relied upon by the prosecution) sowed more doubt about the assertions being made. The result? A unanimous acquittal for JB, along with his co-defendant. An example of determined representation of an unattractive defendant defeating an apparently clear cut prosecution case by showing the complainant to be at best unreliable and at worst dishonest.