Sophia Dower’s client acquitted in extraordinary case of kidnap by fraud
After a trial lasting 6 weeks before Reading Crown Court, Sophia’s client (AD) was one of two defendants, out of eight, to be acquitted of kidnap. The circumstances of the case were highly unusual, given that the vast majority of kidnap offences involve force, as opposed to fraud.
At the time of the offence, the Complainant was just 16 years old. She had run away from home in a desperate attempt to escape what she described as years of sexual and physical abuse and being forced to live a life of servitude at the hands of her parents. She fled her home in the middle of the night, and even ran across live train tracks to avoid being intercepted by her parents who were in pursuit of her. She was eventually found by police and placed into protective foster care.
A few weeks later, the Complainant became friends with a boy on social media (MB). She confided in him that she wanted to run away from her foster home for fear that her father was paying people to find her. Arrangements were made with MB for her escape, and together with his parents, they collected the Complainant and drove her to MB’s aunt’s home in Sheffield (Sophia’s client, AD). The Complainant genuinely believed that MB and his family were trying to help her. Unbeknownst to her, MB and his family had been in regular contact with her parents, had driven in convoy with them to collect her from foster care and had their personal belongings at her parents’ home address. It was the Crown’s case this was an arrangement between them to keep the Complainant out of reach of the authorities by luring her into a false sense of security that she was being helped, when in fact, she was being kidnapped. This was, therefore, a kidnap by fraud.
Despite AD only giving a brief prepared statement in interview and declining to give evidence at trial, Sophia was able to highlight several evidential weaknesses in the Crown’s case which undermined the suggestion that AD knowingly participated in the kidnap, (such as the complete lack of any communication evidence with her co-defendants prior to the offence) and other features of the Crown’s case which in fact pointed the finger away from AD’s guilt. After 4 days of deliberation, Defendants 1 – 6 were convicted, but AD together with Defendant 8 (her boyfriend) were acquitted.