Summary and comment on R-v-DYSON –typed communication technique
The case of R-v-DYSON relates to a single victim who was the friend of the defendants’ daughter. He befriended her and supplied her with a mobile phone. The contact between the two peaked at 280 contacts a day for the month preceding and during the abuse.
The victim spent most hours after school at home alone as her parents worked. However they started noticing missing episodes and it was her father who discovered the phone and viewed indecent images of his daughter.
The matter was reported to police. The victim was spoken to by various officers but would not disclose what had happened.
The Child Exploitation Team ran this investigation. The victim talked quite freely about any topic other than the experiences she had with the defendant, and lots of work was done around rapport building.
The victim was very reluctant to talk about the issues. Computer analysis revealed live abuse of the victim by an adult male inside a tent. The victim eventually agreed to do an ABE interview, but became completely mute in the room and couldn’t answer a single question.
The following weeks contained some contact with the victim for reassurance. Two weeks later a family friend produced a letter written to her by the victim with some initial disclosures. Seven further letters followed giving a good account of what had taken place with the defendant.
It was clear that the victim had found a voice in these written letters. A discussion took with the CPS took place as to whether the letters alone could constitute the victims’ evidence. CPS deemed them hearsay and therefore some form of ABE interview was necessary. With this in mind the idea of a written ABE was discussed with an expert from the NCA who deemed it an appropriate method of collecting evidence.
Two computers were set up in the same room allowing the interviewee and interviewer to communicate with a third screen set up for the controller and intermediary to view. The whole interview was conducted in complete silence. It took over three hours to complete. The victim was comfortable answering in this way. A further film was made of the conversation which was sealed into an evidence bag.
The victim wrote another letter some weeks after the interview disclosing an oral rape and was re-interviewed using the same method as before.
The defendant was charged with 13 offences against the victim. As the written form was the only method that the victim would communicate in regarding the offences, it was deemed appropriate that the method should be employed within the courts for the purposes of trial. A specialist company were employed to set up the typing link between the video link room and the courts. A typist was used within the courts to write to the victim. The sound between the rooms was turned off.
The victims’ answers were verbalised within the court room on reply. Individual screens were set up for all present in the court room to see the typed answers. The victim had specifically requested the defendant not see her whilst in the video link room and a screen was erected within the dock to prevent his view of the video link screen.
The pre-trial special measures discussion with the intermediary allowed strict time-limits on periods of questioning to be set as well as the question-types and codes that could be used to help the typing to be expeditious.
The victim was cross examined by both the defence and the prosecution. She was given a voice that she previously didn’t have. The effect of the written evidence was compelling. The jury found the defendant guilty on all 13 counts. He was sentenced to 11 years with a 15 year SOPO and sex offender registration for life.
The matter has been highlighted to demonstrate this as a verifiable communication technique that should be considered when other more usual techniques have been explored and exhausted. It gave the victim a voice and allowed her to express very clearly what had happened to her. The written cross examination seemed to leave a lasting impression with the jury and ultimately led to the proper justice being sought for the victim.