Problems with Evidence in Stephens case


Stephen’s defence was severely impaired by a number of key decisions made by Judge Mansell. The judge restricted evidence available to the jury, who were removed from the courtroom frequently while he alone heard evidence .


Paradoxically, the judge stated that as the complainant was vulnerable, aspects of her diagnosis and elements of her medical history should not be presented. This evidence was key in the defence’s assertions regarding the complainant’s reliability and credibility – the fact that she suffered from hallucinations and delusions of plots against her life should have raised questions about the veracity of her claims against Stephen.


Dr Janet Boakes’ expert testimony on the development of the complainant’s allegations and on how this suggested False Memory Syndrome was not permitted to be heard by the jury.


A number of prosecution witnesses were allowed to change their evidence in their original police statements, and took additional time with police to ‘develop’ their statements during the trial.


Stephen’s defence was further disadvantaged by the judge’s decisions to cut short the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, and to disallow the appearance of some defence witnesses, due to ‘time pressures’, after allowing additional time for the prosecution.


Put plainly, the judge did not consider it necessary for Stephen’s defence team to present all of their evidence that could help to establish his innocence.


The complainant’s medical records warned that she was highly suggestible, and open to adopting others’ ideas as her own; indeed, she presented her claims of abuse after another young woman suggested to her that the complainant may have been raped. At that point, the complainant stated that she’d started to remember abuse after experiencing the physical sensations and hallucinations associated with F.M.S.


Her records revealed that rather than assessing the complainant’s beliefs to establish their credibility, health professionals chose to support her beliefs without question, thus reinforcing her delusions. Medical notes reveal that the complainant’s own mother questioned the reality of the claims, believing that such abuse was impossible. The complainant’s family were encouraged to support the claims as part of her treatment.


By the time the case went to trial, the complainant’s mother stated that she was suffering guilt for not noticing any signs of repeated and violent abuse, and was now supporting her without question to back up her claims.


The complainant’s own diaries from the period when historical abuse allegedly took place contradicted her testimony, showing her to be untroubled and that she had no experience of sexual contact of any kind. The police did not disclose these diaries, and later stated they could not be accessed as they were in storage.

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Stephen’s fate rested on partial, questionable and altered testimonies and medical notes, rather than on expert evidence and solid facts.