A Birmingham rape trial was scrapped after a barrister held a meeting with teenage victim Dana Baker at his home.
Prosecutor David Jones, who was also a part-time judge, breached strict legal guidelines on witness contact by meeting with the 15-year-old girl.
The costly trial was halted after the judge heard details of the meeting and Mr Jones – a barrister with No5 Chambers in Birmingham – resigned from the Bar soon afterwards.
Karate teacher Jaspal Riat, aged 48, was jailed more than a year later for repeatedly abusing Dana.
But justice came too late for the gifted student, as she hanged herself as she awaited the second trial.
Riat, from Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, was jailed for eight years in September at Gloucester Crown Court after jurors heard how he had tied up and had sex with Dana when she was aged just 13 and 14.
He was cleared of rape but was convicted of sexual assault and seven counts of sexual activity with a child.
But Riat first went on trial for abusing Dana at Birmingham Crown Court in summer 2010.
A jury was sworn in on August 2 and prosecutor David Jones – a barrister for 40 years – opened the case on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service.
But the next day His Honour Judge Philip Parker, QC, dramatically halted the trial, which had taken months of preparation.
After asking the jury to leave the court, he revealed to the courtroom that Mr Jones had held a pre-trial meeting at his house with Dana – then aged 15 and described by the judge as a vulnerable witness.
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.
“This morning matters have been drawn to my attention over concern about a meeting which prosecuting counsel, Mr David Jones, had with the complainant in the case.
“The long and short of it is that as a result of disclosures in respect of that meeting, the defence... wish that the jury be discharged and that some investigations take place concerning this meeting so that Mr Jones’ position is clear and so that the defence have material upon which they might consider making further applications in respect of the trial.’’
The meeting took place on July 29, 2010, at Mr Jones’ home.
Dana was present, along with her foster mother and a carer or social worker. It is understood that Mr Jones’ wife was also present at the meeting, which included food.
Yet the barrister breached his own profession’s Code of Conduct because the Crown Prosecution Service was not notified of the meeting, no police officer was in attendance and no notes were taken.
Mr Jones had said he had wanted to discuss with Dana if she would give evidence via a TV link, or live in court behind a screen.
Such a meeting could have been allowed under ‘special measures’, as long as no evidential matters were discussed.
But the barrister admitted to the judge that Dana had seen the transcripts of her video evidence and a ‘prosecution case summary’ which included a ‘summary of what she was maintaining, but also included summaries of other witnesses’ evidence’. The judge added that Mr Jones believed Dana had also been allowed to take away ‘his own personal summary of her interviews’.
“He stresses that nothing actually to do with the evidence of the case or potential gaps in the evidence was discussed with her,” His Honour Judge Parker said.
But he added: “This morning, in discussions with counsel and obviously in what Mr Jones has said, it is suggested that obviously discussions may have strayed in to the evidence, certainly in respect of provision of the notes or the seeing of case summary and so forth.”
The defence team had expressed concerns to the judge that a meeting of any kind had taken place at the prosecution counsel’s home with the complainant, not least one which lasted two and a half hours.
They were also concerned that “no note was taken as to what took place” and also that no one from the CPS or police was present.
Mr Jones apparently told the judge the meeting had been ‘well-intentioned’ and was aimed at seeking to ‘avoid any problem with late video editing which might hold up the trial’.
But the lunch was to cost the trial.
It was a misjudgment, in the judge’s view, to “see a witness in such circumstances, in particular a young witness, a witness with some sort of psychological/psychiatric background.
“The long and short of it is that I do not believe that this jury can continue to consider this case... 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 subsequent hearing took place about 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’.
That application failed but Mr Jones resigned from the Bar the day after that hearing in which his meeting with the teenage victim was heavily criticised.
But troubled Dana never saw her attacker brought to justice.
In March last year the then 16-year-old hanged herself near a busy roundabout in Kidderminster, Worcestershire.
A man who found Dana’s body called police, who cut down the former Stourport High School student and gave her the kiss of life.
But nothing could be done to save the gifted student.
The tragic sex abuse victim, from Kidderminster, had made a final cry for help on Facebook hours before she killed herself, pleading: “Lying here, trying to figure out what the hell I’m gonna do.”
An inquest into her death was opened last autumn. A full hearing to determine how and why she died will be held later this month.
Despite the death, West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service successfully argued for a retrial and lawyers had her crucial videotaped evidence admitted.
The judge at Riat’s second trial said that the karate teacher had identified Dana as a lonely child from a “vulnerable” and unhappy family background, which he had exploited for his own sexual purpose.
Mr Jones was called to the Bar in 1967.
He left Birmingham barristers’ group, Three Fountain Court, in 2006 to join No5 Chambers, also in Birmingham, after the former was dissolved.
He was also a recorder – a part-time judge – at Warwick Crown Court.
In a statement, Tony McDaid practice director of No5 Chambers said he could not comment on the circumstances of the rape trial collapse.
He added: “Mr Jones joined us in 2006 and was a leading barrister on the Midlands’ circuit for 40 years. What happened was a very unfortunate matter but Mr Jones had an exemplary record.’’
He added that the Crown Prosecution Service had faith in Mr Jones’ judgment and advocacy skills, in giving him such a sensitive case.
Mr Jones was unavailable for comment last night.