Rape conviction for jailed policeman is quashed on appeal

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The Independent Online

The debate about whether men accused of rape should be named in court cases was reignited last night after a detective who was jailed six years ago for raping and sexually abusing a former girlfriend had his conviction quashed on appeal.

The debate about whether men accused of rape should be named in court cases was reignited last night after a detective who was jailed six years ago for raping and sexually abusing a former girlfriend had his conviction quashed on appeal.

David Potter wept as three Court of Appeal judges announced their decision to overturn his conviction.

Their judgment was based on fresh evidence from a former boyfriend of the alleged victim which showed her evidence was unreliable.

The divorced father-of-two was sentenced to nine years in December 1998 after a jury at Liverpool Crown Court found him guilty of rape, false imprisonment and three offences of indecent assault. Mr Potter denied all the charges. He had been in the police force for 15 years, rising to the rank of detective constable but was sacked following his conviction.

During the six-day trial, the jury was told the detective, then living in Huyton, Merseyside, had tied up, abused and humiliated his 36-year-old victim before raping her with his truncheon. The allegations centred on a single incident at Mr Potter's home in the spring of 1994, three years after his relationship with the woman had ended.

Mr Potter was released on parole in September 2003 after serving 57 months in prison.

Mr Potter's parents, Terry and Doreen, hired a private detective and gained expert legal and psychiatric advice in their attempts to free him, his solicitor Tony Nelson said.

Speaking after the hearing Mr Potter, 50, spoke of his "incalculable gratitude" to his family for helping clear his name. "It is a huge relief. It is something that has been hanging over me and my whole family for six years," Mr Potter said. "They have served this prison sentence with me. They had to turn detective at their late stage of life and do things they were not equipped to do."

Mr Potter, who now lives in the South-west of England, added: "I have had a lot of support from people who never believed in the verdict of the jury. Today is a vindication of the faith they had in me."

Mr Nelson said Mr Potter was seeking legal advice with a view to compensation.

Lord Justice Scott Baker, Mr Justice Richards and Dame Heather Steele overturned Mr Potter's conviction at London's Court of Appeal yesterday without asking him to give evidence. The defence case was not opposed by the Crown, Mr Nelson said.

The case of Mr Potter follows several other high-profile cases in which people, such as John Leslie and Matthew Kelly, the television presenters, have been named and accused of sexual offences and then cleared.

One expert on sex offence cases warned yesterday that the verdict highlighted the dangers in a Government drive to convict more men of rape.

Retired barrister Martin Bowley, QC, was a member of a review team which played a central role in producing last year's Sexual Offences Act.

Mr Bowley has argued before that colleagues on the review team were anxious to load the law strongly against the defendant. He said the case showed the dangers of the Government's campaign to secure more convictions for rape.

"I think today's case shows how careful we must be," he said. "In so many cases there is no corroboration, and where it is entirely one side's word against the other, juries are understandably and rightly reluctant to convict."