Rana, R v, Court of Appeal - Criminal Division, April 11, 2018, [2018] EWCA Crim 725

Issuing Organization:Criminal Division
Actores:Rana, R v
Resolution Date:April 11, 2018
 
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Case No: 201702251 B3

Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWCA Crim 725

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CRIMINAL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM THE CROWN COURT AT SHREWSBURY

Date: 11/04/2018

Before:

THE RT HON THE LORD BURNETT OF MALDON

LORD CHIEF JUSTICE OF ENGLAND AND WALES

THE HON MRS JUSTICE CARR DBE

and

THE HON MR JUSTICE PHILLIPS

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Between:

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Farrhat Arshad appeared for the Applicant

Charles Hamer appeared for the Crown

Hearing date: 21 March 2018

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Judgment

Lord Burnett of Maldon CJ:

  1. On 4 September 2015 in the Crown Court at Shrewsbury the applicant was convicted of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered (count 1), and doing an act tending to pervert the course of justice (count 2). She was sentenced to six years' imprisonment on Count 1 by Mr Recorder Mills, with a concurrent sentence of four months' on Count 2. The prosecution case was that she had set fire to her home in the early hours of 25 October 2014, in which her parents were asleep, and immediately maliciously blamed her boyfriend by falsely suggesting that he had threatened to kill her and her family if she did not assist him with a motor claim. We will explain the facts in more detail, but part of the prosecution case was that she was within 20 or 25 metres of the house (inferentially in it) at the time the fire was started. That was supported by agreed expert evidence relating to her mobile telephone. The applicant said she was further away but it was suggested to her, in reliance on the expert evidence, that she was lying. The essence of the case advanced before us is that the expert evidence was wrong with the result that the convictions are unsafe.

  2. The application for leave to appeal against conviction on that basis was referred by the single judge to the full court together with the application to adduce fresh evidence. He extended time. We grant leave to appeal.

    The facts in outline

  3. In 2014 the appellant, then aged 22, lived at 29 Sunningdale, Hadley, Telford with her parents, Lakhbir Rana and Paula Simmonds, and her cat. The front door was sometimes left unlocked, particularly when the appellant was out late. The garage at the side of the house, where Mr Rana kept petrol for his lawnmower in a can, had a rear entrance which was also left unlocked.

  4. On Friday 24 October 2014 the appellant went out for a long evening of drinking with friends, at the end of which she was dropped off near the house at about 02.00 on Saturday 25 October. Her friend Becky Haywood had been dropped off first and sent a text at 01.59 saying she was home. The appellant used her iPhone to call Becky once she had been deposited on the corner. That call commenced at 02.03.53 and ended ending at 02.06.12. The applicant said she smoked a cigarette at that time. She told Becky that she was ``on her way home'' or ``nearly home''. She had been dropped off on the corner of Waterloo Road and Crescent Road, a shade under 90 metres as the crow flies (a little longer by foot) from her front door.

  5. At 2:15:04 the appellant's iPhone connected to the wireless router located in her bedroom at the house. That connection signified an exchange of data and was an example of a phenomenon experienced by many who have set their phones automatically to tie up with their home wifi - it does so before one enters the house. It was at that point that the prosecution said that she must have been within 25 meters of home.

  6. At about that time, or very shortly thereafter, a fire was started deliberately at the base of the only staircase in the house. Petrol was used as an accelerant. The fire developed rapidly, producing a large quantity of smoke which filled the ground floor and first floor rooms. A smoke alarm on the landing was activated, waking Mr Rana and Ms Simmonds, who had been asleep in their upstairs bedroom. Mr Rana attempted to smother the fire without success. The next fixed point in the chronology is the call made by Ms Simmonds to the emergency services. She was connected at about 2.20. The details of her call were received on a printer at the fire station at 02.20. Neighbours were alerted and enabled Ms Simmonds and Mr Rana to escape unhurt from their bedroom window down a ladder.

  7. At 2.21:55 the appellant again called Becky using her iPhone. She sounded hysterical and was crying, saying that her house was on fire and screaming about her parents and her cat. That call lasted until 02.27.40.

  8. A fire engine arrived at about 2.25am. As fire fighters prepared to enter the house, the Watch Manager in the charge of the team, John Pritchard, saw the appellant walking across the front garden of 30 Sunningdale, the adjoining property, and approaching the front door of her house. When challenged, the appellant told Mr Pritchard that she wanted to get the cat out of the house. At the scene she said to her mother ``it's him''. It was the appellant's evidence that her boyfriend had threatened to do this one week before. The prosecution relied on these observations to show that the appellant knew that the fire was the result of arson.

  9. The appellant went to her grandmother's house nearby, where she was interviewed by a police officer. She told the officer that her former boyfriend had threatened the previous week ``to do this'', and confirmed that assertion in a written statement. Later that morning, she was interviewed again and made a further written statement to the effect that she had split up with her boyfriend two months before. The threat had been made in a telephone call on the previous Tuesday, when he had stated that if the appellant did not complete forms relating to a traffic accident claim, he would kill her and her family.

  10. The police seized various items of the appellant's clothing and footwear but none of them showed any sign of fire damage, smoke or any trace of petrol. The petrol can from the garage was not checked for fingerprints.

  11. The boyfriend...

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