Child abuse conviction quashed over hearsay account of ‘confession’
- Credit: Archant
A man who protested his ‘100% innocence’ when found guilty of historic child sex abuse has won an appeal to have his conviction quashed.
Alec Smith was found guilty by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court in November 2017 of sexually assaulting a schoolgirl almost 50 years earlier.
Mr Smith, who was 75, of Little Wood, Frinton-on-Sea, at the time of his conviction, had denied indecently assaulting the eight-year-old in the late 1960s and declared from the dock: “I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. I’m 100% innocent”.
A month later, he was given a two-year suspended jail sentence, 180 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.
This month, Mr Smith took his case to the Court of Appeal, which ruled the conviction was “unsafe” and based on “highly prejudicial evidence”.
You may also want to watch:
In 2017, a jury heard about a conversation between the girl’s now deceased mother and Mr Smith’s then wife about the girl’s claims.
The court heard that Mr Smith’s wife, Phyllis, had returned home in tears and refused to tell him why she was upset.
- 1 Valley Ridge ski resort in jeopardy amid furious row over landfill site
- 2 People with these surnames in Suffolk could be owed a fortune
- 3 Man left with cuts to his head after being bottled following fight in Suffolk town
- 4 Suffolk enjoys warehousing boom as more businesses flock to region
- 5 'Never seen anything like it' - community pulls together to revamp pub
- 6 Delays after car crashes into level crossing
- 7 A12 fully reopened after serious crash
- 8 Container ship that blocked Suez Canal due to arrive in Felixstowe
- 9 Tourists turn to inland Suffolk as coast books up
- 10 Gill on the move again as former Town coach heads to the Championship
Giving evidence during the trial, the complainant, who contacted police in 2016, said Mr Smith’s wife “went back to Alec and said he admitted it straight away when challenged” – a claim Mr Smith denied.
Meanwhile, the girl’s mother was said to have also told another daughter about the allegation, but that the incident was “swept under the carpet” to avoid it being dragged through the courts.
Court of Appeal justices found “no proper basis” upon which multiple hearsay evidence of Mr Smith’s alleged admission should have been introduced, and that the jury should have been told the alleged confession was irrelevant and must not be relied upon.
They added: “The important facts were that the complaint was made and that they (the girl’s parents) took no action.
“The prejudicial effect of an alleged confession, if introduced as part of the motive for that inaction, is that it was likely to be taken as confirmation of truth of the confession itself.”
The court ruled it was not in the interests of justice for there to be a retrial after more than 50 years from the alleged offence, where a non-custodial sentence was passed and the relevant unpaid work requirement completed.