The Importance of the Preservation of Online Communication
Jacqui Callan, the head of our Criminal Defence team and Higher Court Advocate, was instructed in 2020 to act on behalf of a client who was alleged to have committed the offence of sexual activity with a child.
The client, under 18 himself, was accused of digitally penetrating a girl after she invited him to her house. Responding to the allegation, our client denied the complainant’s version of events. He was adamant that the complainant had become infatuated with him and gave him an unsolicited kiss and removed her own clothing. Our client said he politely made his excuses and left, that no sexual activity took place. Our client’s view was that as a result of him shunning the complainant, she made a false allegation against him.
Phil Gibbs, Barrister at One High Pavement Chambers was instructed to act on our client’s behalf and the client formally entered his not guilty plea at the Magistrates Court. The case was subsequently sent to the Crown Court for a criminal trial.
The evidence against our client consisted of the complainant’s version of events, disclosure witnesses and messages and photos sent between the parties via IMessage, Snapchat and Instagram.
During the course of the trial, Shannon Keenan, Trainee Solicitor, brought to bear her technical knowledge which assisted both Jacqui Callan and Phil Gibbs in preparing the case for trial. The value of these communications came to head when the defence relied upon the fact that the complainant had added our client on snapchat, communicated with him, and sent sexually explicit photos of herself in an attempt to act older than she was.
Our client was unanimously acquitted by the jury after 2 days of deliberations.
The preservation of evidence in cases involving social media messaging is vital, particularly now that applications allow users to unsend messages and have auto delete functions. Our client’s future may have been significantly impacted without this evidence, and had he been convicted, he may not have able to develop a career in the fire service.
Our client said, “during the court proceedings, Phil, Jacqui & Shannon were ever-present, marinating a calm, competent and personable approach. They all took time to explain every element of the proceedings in an honest and methodical manner, ensuring that despite our obvious stress we understood everything. Their approach assisted us with the emotions of the situation. The whole team lived, ate and slept our case with us.”
Phil Gibbs commented, “Some question the value of criminal defence lawyers, but they often change their minds once they actually need one! There is a lot of controversy about privacy issues relating to the contents of a complainant’s mobile phone. In this case it was evident that the facts were not as they were being portrayed by the complainant. Without proper investigation, preservation of evidence and appropriate disclosure of relevant material, there would have been a serious risk of injustice. That accused person might have been your husband, partner, or son. The jury heard the whole of the evidence and they decided where the merits of the case lay. We do live, eat, and sleep these cases. We also dream about them!”
Instructing a team of specialised criminal defence solicitors with the technical know-how is crucially important to ensure that the correct steps are taken to advance your defence and to obtain the best possible outcome of a criminal investigation or proceedings.
If you, or someone you know, is currently facing an allegation that involves evidence of a similar nature call our criminal defence team today.