Other Forms of Evidence
Third party evidence is evidence which is obtained from someone other that the accused or the complainant. It is vital that we, as defence solicitors, obtain as much third party evidence in favour of the defendant as possible. We have already mentioned on this web page situations where third party evidence can assist the defence, and the circumstances where it may arise. Below is a summary of the various types of third party evidence.
A considerable amount of third party evidence will not even be obtained or investigated by the police. For example, it is unlikely that the police will spend time talking to neighbours of the complainant or scrutinising employment records. At PCD Solicitors we will leave no stone unturned in pursuing all third party evidence. Any evidence held by the prosecution, even if not voluntarily disclosed to the defence, will be requested. Any evidence not held by the prosecution (because the police have not thought to obtain it) can be obtained independently by us, as your solicitors. We can obtain this by making lawful requests, by the use of private investigators or personal visits by our legal team to find a third party witness.
Previous Criminal Convictions of the Complainant
Any previous convictions against the complainant should be made known to the defence by the prosecution (but we would check in any event). Of particular importance are convictions relating to dishonesty. An offence that, at first sight, appears unrelated can be important. For example, the complainant may have a previous conviction for a minor shoplifting offence. You may think this would have no bearing on an allegation of sexual assault against the complainant made some years later. However, to be convicted of shoplifting (theft) the prosecution must prove that the person acted dishonestly. You may see how this does become relevant if that same person later claims they have been assaulted. Why should they be believed if they have previous convictions for dishonest behaviour? Even more so if the defendant in the alleged assault case has an unblemished record and is of exemplary character.
Previous Criminal Allegations made by the Complainant
Such allegations made against other people in the past may not be known to the prosecution. Even if they are known to the prosecution, they may not be disclosed to the defence. Any previous allegation reported to the police, particularly if investigated but no further action was taken, may indicate the complainant was not being truthful. From a defence position, it is important that we try to uncover all previous allegations and complaints made by the complainant.
Family Members or Close Friends of the Complainant
The account given to different people may have changed. For example, the complainant may have told close friends of an alleged sexual assault prior to reporting the matter to the police. The actual details of the alleged assault may have changed when an account is obtained from those close friends. In other words, a slightly different story has been given to each friend. In addition, the account given to the friends may be different to the account given to the police.
A slight change in story is important to the defence, even if only a few hours have gone by between reporting the details to family or friends and reporting to the police. Of course, with a historic case it is even more important to investigate previous conversations with friends and family because the circumstances of the alleged assault may be considerably different to those later reported to the police.
It may also be the case that the complainant did not even mention the alleged assault to family of friends at the time is was alleged to have occurred. Whilst there may be valid reasons for the complainant not mentioning such matters to family or friends, it does raise a concern that the whole incident may not actually have happened, particularly if there was no visit made to a doctor or hospital.