Charlotte Gill and Duncan Robertson, Daily Mail (London), February 8, 2008
A white man was wrongly charged with rape on flawed DNA evidence, even though the victim said her attacker was black.
The 26-year-old was arrested after police carried out a cold case review on the assault of a teenage girl seven years ago.
Scientists tested a hair on the girl and came up with a match to the father of two. He was bailed, tagged and warned he faced a trial.
Yesterday, following a four-month ordeal, he walked free from court after the prosecution offered no evidence against him.
He was arrested last October after detectives reinvestigated the attack on the 17-year-old girl in Bexleyheath, Kent.
She was assaulted as she walked home after a meal with a friend in December 2001.
The offender grabbed her around the neck, dragged her into a garden where he ripped her clothes off and raped her.
She told her mother and police that her attacker was “black, large and tall”.
The arrested man is white, 5ft 5in and slim and said he had not been to Bexleyheath.
Prosecutor Lisa Wilding told Southwark Crown Court: “This case has an extremely unusual aspect to it in that the description given of her assailant by the complainant is of a large, tall, black man, which this defendant is clearly not.
“The DNA arises from a hair caught within the clasp of a ring worn by the complainant.
“It is not from an internal swab, it is external from a hair, and that further reduces the significance of the DNA evidence.
“The case has been very carefully reviewed and in the circumstances the Crown offers no evidence.”
Jenny Hart, defending, said of her client: “He had no idea how a hair from his head, if it can be a hair from his head, had got into her ring.”
She said her client had been a hospital porter at one time and the first time the victim noticed the hair in her ring was during a hospital visit.
“In addition, not only has the complainant said herself it was a black man, totally different weight and height to that of the defendant, but five hours later the complainant’s boyfriend spoke to the mother and the mother said: ‘My daughter’s been raped by a black man.’”
The man was formally cleared of rape but asked a judge to prevent his identification because he feared that naming him would lead to harmful repercussions.
Judge John Price ruled that he had no power to make such an order but asked the media to abide with the man’s wish.
He said he had much sympathy for the defendant, who had “undergone months of distress and concern before finding today there is no evidence to be offered against him, because there is no evidence”.
Judge Price added: “He is a man who leaves this court with no blame whatsoever.
“He is a wholly innocent man, who might have been the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice.”
A spokesman for the CPS said: “We charged on the basis of DNA evidence which we were satisfied with.
“We asked for further tests and in light of the results we decided that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.”