A teenage girl was found hanged after a blunder by her barrister caused the collapse of the rape trial of a man who abused her from the age of 13.
Prosecutor David Jones breached strict legal guidelines on witness contact when he discussed the case of 16-year-old karate star Dana Baker with her at his house.
As a result, the trial of her coach Jaspal Riat, 48, was scrapped. Mr Jones resigned from the Bar soon afterwards.
Tragic case: Dana Baker was 16 when she hanged herself while waiting for her abuser to be retried
Later Dana, who represented Great Britain in karate, hanged herself after making a cry for help on Facebook, pleading: ‘Lying here, trying to figure out what the hell I’m gonna do.’
Full details of Dana’s death are expected to be revealed when an inquest is resumed later this month.
But six months after she died, video testimony she had recorded meant the trial could be resumed at Gloucester Crown Court in September, and Riat was jailed for eight years.
Jailed: Jaspal Riat, 48, was sentenced to eight years at the subsequent retrial
He was cleared of rape but found guilty of sexual assault and seven counts of sexual activity with a child.
A jury heard he had identified the academically bright teenager, who was in voluntary foster care, as a lonely child from a ‘vulnerable’ family background, whom he had exploited for his own sexual purposes since she was 13.
But what the jurors did not know was that Riat had appeared at Birmingham Crown Court in 2010 when Mr Jones, a leading barrister on the Midlands circuit with 40 years’ experience, opened the rape trial on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service.
A day later, Judge Philip Parker QC discharged the jury after hearing of Dana’s two-and-a-half hour lunch meeting at the prosecutor’s home.
Mr Jones, 68, a barrister with No5 Chambers in Birmingham, insisted that the meeting, a month before the trial started, was ‘well intentioned’ and was aimed at seeking to ‘avoid any problem with late video editing which might hold up the trial’.
Dana, of Kidderminster, Worcestershire, attended the meeting with her foster mother and a social worker. It is understood that Mr Jones’s wife was also present.
By hosting the gathering, Mr Jones breached his profession’s code of conduct because the Crown Prosecution Service was not notified, no police officer was in attendance and no notes were taken.
The rules stipulate that such a meeting could have been allowed under ‘special measures’, providing that no evidential matters were discussed.
Sports star: Schoolgirl Dana represented her country at karate and was academically bright
But the barrister admitted to the judge that Dana had seen transcripts of her video evidence and a ‘prosecution case summary’ which included details of other witness evidence.
After the jurors were asked to leave court, Judge Parker said: ‘It is a very serious case, at its highest an allegation of rape of a young girl of 13 or 14 by a man in a position of trust.’ He said it was a misjudgment to ‘see a witness in such circumstances’, adding: ‘The long and short of it is that I do not believe that this jury can continue to consider this case.
Resigned: Prosecutor David Jones quit his Birmingham law firm after his legal blunder halted the trial
‘I am afraid the result of my ruling is that the current jury will have to be discharged and we will have to seek a new potential date for the trial.’
A hearing took place two months later at which Riat’s defence team argued for the case against him to be thrown out on the grounds that there had been ‘an abuse of process’.
The application failed but Mr Jones resigned from the Bar the next day.
During the retrial in September, the court heard that Dana became depressed when Riat ended their relationship, and that she had previously taken an overdose.
She had also warned him that she intended to kill herself, to which he replied: ‘Thank you for sacrificing yourself for me.’
Judge Jamie Tabor QC told Riat: ‘You used her in a thoroughly selfish and, indeed, despicable manner.’
Mr Jones was called to the bar in 1967. He was also a recorder at Warwick Crown Court.
Tony McDaid, practice director of No5 Chambers, said: ‘Mr Jones was a leading barrister on the Midlands circuit for 40 years.
‘What happened was very unfortunate but Mr Jones had an exemplary record.
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