‘Everything that could go wrong did go wrong’
A former Government minister has accused a police officer of lying and misleading the court in what he described as ‘a plainly wrongful conviction’. In an extraordinary statement made to Parliament, Crispin Blunt, who was justice minister in the Coalition government between 2010 and 2012, called the case of Daniel Creswell ‘one of the most serious individual miscarriages of justice’ he had seen in his two decades of public service. He claimed that every criminal justice agency had ‘failed alarmingly’.
Invoking the protection of parliamentary privilege, the MP for Reigate in Surrey named the investigating officer saying that there was ‘a prime facie case’ that not only had she ‘failed in her duty in the pursuit of truth and justice’ but that she had lied in court and in the preparation of the case. The MP for Reigate in Surrey also described his constituent’s barrister as ‘jaw-droppingly bad’.
The claims have been denied by the Police Federation who accused the MP of ‘hiding’ behind parliamentary privilege. A spokesman told the BBC: ‘If there is any evidence of wrong doing, Mr Blunt should make these accusations in a public forum, base them upon hard evidence and hand this evidence to the Independent Office of Police Conduct immediately.’
Daniel Creswell was sentenced to seven years in June 2014 for rape and placed on the sex offenders’ register for life. He has always claimed that he was the innocent victim of a malicious allegation by the partner of a businessman who was in debt to the company he worked for.
Daniel Creswell, now 40 years old, worked in logistics for a direct sales business. It was his job to arrange for stock to be sent to sales offices and, as such, he was responsible for auditing the various offices and deal with any anomalies. According to his family, the businessman was ‘fitted up’ by a female partner of a man who owed more than £80,000 to the company. On Creswell’s account, he allowed himself to be manoeuvred into position in which the woman spent the night in his hotel room in Leeds. He alleges the woman claimed she couldn’t remember where she was staying that night and that she had lost her room key. He claims to have slept fully clothed on the bed covers and woke to discover she was sexually assaulting him.
Her allegations first arose a few days later when the woman’s boyfriend emailed Creswell’s boss saying: ‘You guys have got a very big problem to deal with.’ The man announced that the couple were about to go to the police to report that she had been drugged and raped twice. The email, which has been seen by the Justice Gap, ends: ‘For a change you better get back to me before I destroy your brand.’
Crispin Blunt accuses the investigating officer of being ‘indolent in the extreme’ in checking his constituent’s version of events. He also claimed that the financial motive was not established in the investigation or at trial and his constituent was let down by his ‘incompetent’ barrister. Creswell was on bail for 415 days. The family claims it took the police officer 15 months to interview the concierge at the hotel where they stayed. Creswell also pressed the police to recover the woman’s telephone messages which, he argues, could have shown her to have been lying. He claims that the woman disappeared for 45 minutes in the evening to buy cocaine and was not, as she suggested, incapacitated having had her drink spiked. It was claimed that the police failed to recover the phone records which were destroyed after a year. Crispin Blunt also told Parliament that the investigating officer had misrepresented strength of forensic evidence.
‘This was a case in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong,’ comments Daniel Cresswell’s solicitor Glyn Maddocks. ‘This is once more another shocking failure of disclosure in the criminal justice system that sadly has become so familiar together with a totally one sided and inadequate police investigation that too readily believe the “victim” and totally failed to listen to the accused’s account.’
Maddocks is critical of the ‘underfunded and overstretched’ Criminal Cases Review Commission for failing to get identify ‘to get to grips with this injustice’. ‘It makes one wonder what is point if it cannot properly investigate and attempt to rectify an injustice such as this,’ the solicitor says. Maddocks in working with the Labour MP Barry Sheerman on the new all-party parliamentary group on miscarriages of justice. ‘A man’s life has been destroyed without any credible evidence being produced against him and the only way that he can get his side of the story out there is through his MP using parliamentary privilege to point the finger at those who have failed Daniel Cresswell so comprehensively. We must urgently look at how our Criminal justice system deals with these cases and I am delighted that the newly formed APPG will provide a vital opportunity to begin that process.’
Crispin Blunt called Daniel Creswell ‘another victim of the enthusiasm to improve the conviction rates in rape cases’. The allegations were made a few weeks after the revelations of widespread sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile and shortly after the MP left office as a justice minister in September 2012. ‘I was well aware of the public policy anxiety to improve the number of convictions arising from complaints of rape,’ he said. ‘This was not a climate created by Alison Saunders, the retiring Director of Public Prosecutions, but it was rocket-charged under her term of office.’
‘Given today’s circumstances with the discrediting of so many high-profile sexual offences investigations having revealed the one-sided and one-eyed way in which the police and prosecution have sought to deliver convictions and not give the defence of the benefit of the information they hold, I personally think it is inconceivable that this case would now pass muster even to arrive at a decision to charge’
The justice minister Rory Stewart met with Daniel Cresswell and his family before the debate. He would not comment on the case but flagged up the work of the new APPG. ‘There is no doubt that miscarriage of justice does occur, and as the Ministry of Justice, we need to be aware of that,’ Stewart said. ‘We have seen it in high-profile cases, such as that of the Birmingham Six. Research in the US suggests that between 2.3% and 5% of convicted people in American prisons are in fact innocent. We need to take that very seriously, in thinking about our entire legal system.’
First published on May 18, 2018
Author: Jon Robins
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon’s books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council’s journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year’s Criminal Justice Alliance’s journalism award