Lord Ahmed: Sex abuse trial 'sabotaged', judge says

Image source, UK Parliament

Image caption,

Nazir Ahmed had denied the allegations against him

A judge has halted the sex abuse trial of a former Labour peer, accusing prosecutors of "sabotaging" proceedings.

The trial of Lord Ahmed, 63, who appeared at Sheffield Crown Court under his real name, Nazir Ahmed, was stopped on 22 February.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC ruled all proceedings against Lord Ahmed should stop due to prosecution errors.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) plans to appeal against the decision.

Lord Ahmed went on trial in February accused of two counts of attempting to rape a girl under 16, indecent assault of a boy under 14 and raping a boy under 16.

The offences, which he denied, were said to date from the 1970s when he was a teenager.

Judge Richardson ordered a permanent stay be placed on proceedings, bringing the prosecution to a halt, on Monday.

He said he was "shocked and appalled" by prosecutors' disclosure of evidence after he found the defence was still being supplied with new information during trial.

He said this was despite the allegations dating back almost 50 years, hearings being postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the allegations being made five years ago.

"This disgraceful situation has sabotaged this trial and caused it to abort. I do not use this adjective lightly," he said.

'Enough was enough'

Judge Richardson said he was "extremely concerned" about apparent failures by the police to follow up reasonable lines of inquiry, saying the case had been handled "as if we're in a different era".

Despite the prosecution's "massive and fundamental failure" to stick to disclosure rules, he said, it was normal to let them "put it right and have another go".

But he had decided to take the unusual course of action for the first time in his career due to a number of factors, he said, including the weakness of the case.

He said the "calamity" had gone from "bad to worse" and he had come to the conclusion that "enough was enough".

Judge Richardson said that it was not a "not guilty" verdict and that the complainants "may feel cheated."

Prosecutors had "blown this case apart", he said, and forcing him to put a stop to the "the agony of it continuing".

A CPS spokesperson said it would seek another trial if its appeal succeeded.

He said it would consider the judgement and the issues in the case to help to "drive lasting improvements in our handling of disclosure to ensure that we provide the service the public rightly expect".

The Crown remained committed to prosecuting sex abuse cases of this nature, he added.

Lord Ahmed's brothers Mohammed Farouq, 70 and Mohammed Tariq, 65, also from Rotherham, were accused of indecent assault of a boy under 14, but were deemed unfit to plead and faced a trial of the facts during the same proceedings.

Lord Ahmed resigned from the House of Lords in November 2020 after a conduct committee report found he had breached its code.

It said he had sexually assaulted a member of the public who was seeking his help in making a complaint to police over a faith healer she believed was exploiting people.

If found he had "failed to act on his personal honour, as evidenced by his dishonesty and lack of integrity."

In a statement issued through his lawyers at the time of the report's publication, Lord Ahmed disputed the findings and said he would appeal.

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