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Mud, mud - glorious mud!

February 01 2014


The defendant was accused of an indecent assault that involved him fondling the complainant’s breasts over her shirt and rubbing his penis on her trousers. The defendant denied this, claiming that consensual sexual contacts had occurred, including brief vaginal intercourse without ejaculation. Prior to the alleged incident, the complainant alleged that she fell, or was pushed, onto muddy ground causing her jumper to become mud stained. She claimed the incident took place after she had removed her jumper, with her lying on her back on the muddy ground. Again the defendant disputed the complainant’s claims, asserting that sexual activity took place in a different location with the complainant lying on top of his jackets. Both parties’ clothing was seized within a few hours of the alleged incident. Although the defendant was expeditiously identified as a suspect, penile swabs were not taken until 21 hours later.


Prior to our involvement, the CPS/Police opted to commission scientific examination of the complainant’s knickers for semen. Not surprisingly, given either of the differing accounts, no semen was detected. Our instructions were to examine the clothing of both parties with a view to considering the distribution of mud and to attempt DNA profiling on the defendant’s penile swabs/underwear. When approached to request access to the items, the CPS’s representative refused on the grounds that examination of the items was a waste of public funds.

Having secured access to the relevant items by Court order, we established that there was no mud staining on the complainant’s jumper or white shirt. Extensive mud staining was found on the defendant’s trousers and trainers, consistent with him having knelt on muddy ground with his feet moving back and forth. Some mud staining was found on his jackets. There was also limited support for the presence of a trace of DNA from the complainant on the defendant’s penile swabs.


Our report was served on the prosecution. During her testimony at trial, the complaint accepted that sexual activity took place in the manner the defendant claimed. The case was dropped.

This case serves as a reminder that forensic examination need not be restricted to complex scientific methods. Depending on the case circumstances, simple observations may be all that is required to yield findings with high probative value. It also serves to illustrate the need to perform relevant examinations/tests based on sound strategy, and how justice is poorly served, and public funding wasted, by bad decision making and a lack of vision/knowledge.

For advice on examinations or testing that is appropriate to your case, contact us.


Lee Fagan

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