Sunday, February 08, 2015

Sloppy police work puts an innocent British man on trial

A fire chief accused of raping a woman in a pub as his wife sat yards away was cleared in less than 15 minutes today.

Sean Frayne, 48, of Fixby, Huddersfield, broke down in tears in the arms of wife Helen – who has stood by him – after he was told he could leave the dock at the end of a seven-day trial.

The £140,000-a-year Chief Fire Officer for Derbyshire was cleared after his lawyer had criticised the decision to prosecute the father-of-three.

In her closing speech to the jury, Laura Pitman questioned why police had failed to launch a blackmail inquiry after it emerged that a friend of the alleged victim wrote to Mr Frayne suggesting the woman may ‘avoid publicity’ for a substantial out-of-court payment.

Miss Pitman said: ‘They (the police) have investigated one side of the story and they have not investigated the other.

‘If this is nothing to do with money why is there even mention of an out-of-court payment?’

Trial judge Jonathan Gosling then told the jury during his summing up of the case: ‘You may think it extraordinary that no claim of blackmail has ever been followed (up) by Derbyshire Police’.

Mr Frayne had denied raping the woman – claiming they had consensual sex when she ‘came on’ to him with a ‘passionate’ kiss in an empty part of the village pub, yards from where Mrs Frayne was drinking.

The December 2006 encounter in Etwall, Derbyshire, only came to light seven years later when the woman told a male friend about the alleged sex attack.

The friend then sent Frayne two anonymous letters accusing Mr Frayne of rape and seeking an ‘out of court settlement’ for the alleged victim.

The letters threatened to report Frayne to police if he did not respond to a telephone number provided.

Derby Crown Court heard Mr Frayne took his wife along with him to confront the woman after receiving the first letter, before she made a formal complaint to police in December 2013.

During the trial a police officer in the case was questioned by Miss Pitman about the content of the letters received by Mr Frayne.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Parkins said the decision was made to treat the letter-writer as a witness and not a suspect because officers considered no threats had been made towards Mr Frayne.

Prosecutor Martin Hurst told the jury it was the Crown’s case that the alleged victim knew nothing about her friend’s decision to attempt to ‘achieve some sort of informal justice’ for her by writing to Mr Frayne.

But the trial heard the letters were not finger-printed by police because they were ‘not the focus’ of the police investigation.

Miss Pitman told the jury: ‘The victim, on her account, says she has not touched them. Were her fingerprints on those letters? We will never know because the police never bothered.’

Mr Frayne, a father-of-three who has never been in trouble before, admitted he had been a ‘fool’ for cheating on his wife so brazenly.

But he told the jury the allegation of rape had ‘wrecked’ his life.

He denied suggestions from Mr Hurst that he had forced himself upon the woman because he thought that he and his wife were going to ‘engage in some swinging’ – the swapping of sexual partners.

Mr Frayne branded the suggestion ‘absolutely ludicrous’.

The jury took just 14 minutes to reach a verdict today.

Mr Frayne and his wife left court without comment - on Mrs Frayne’s 54th birthday.

During the trial, the jury were told the alleged victim had been convicted of benefit fraud in 2012 after she failed to declare a change in circumstances.

Derbyshire Police said: ‘An allegation was made of an historical offence and we investigated it was we would do with any other. The CPS brought the case to court.

‘The letters (sent to Mr Frayne) were not judged to have passed the threshold for a prosecution for blackmail.’

A CPS spokesperson said: ‘It was determined that there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of a conviction and that it was in the public interest to proceed.

‘It is the role of the jury to listen to the evidence from the prosecution and from the defence and decide on that evidence alone whether a defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt - this is a different test than the one applied in our decision making.

'In this instance, having heard arguments from the prosecution and the defence, the jury have determined that Mr Frayne is not guilty of rape and we respect that decision.’

Frayne, formerly of Etwall but now living in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, has been suspended from work since his arrest last March.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service Authority will meet on Friday to decide his future.

Original report here

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