A jury has criticised police and prosecutors after aquitting a private school teacher who had been charged with sexually assaulting a teenage pupil.
Philip Mulcahy was put on trial after being accused of abusing the girl almost a dozen times over two years at the £15,000-a-year Bournemouth Collegiate School.
However, after clearing the 58-year-old teacher of all charges, jurors took the unusual step of sending a note to the judge questioning why the case had ever been brought in the first place.
Judge Brian Forster read out the note at Bournemouth Crown Court, which said: “The investigation seems to have been poor and we are unable to understand on what basis the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] brought the case.”
The judge praised the jury for its diligence and asked that the matter be raised with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chief Constable of Dorset Police.
During the trial, the jury heard that Mr Mulcahy had been a teacher for 35 years and had also volunteered as a rugby coach for 33 years, even coaching a young Jonny Wilkinson before he played for England.
Because of those roles, he had undergone regular safeguarding checks and never had any allegations of this nature made about him before or been arrested before.
Teacher was interviewed by police ‘only once’
The schoolgirl, who was aged between 12 and 14 at the time, claimed that he made her stay behind after class before touching her beneath the table.
On other occasions, she said he touched her under her bra and underwear, and cornered her in a hotel lift on a school trip and assaulted her.
Mr Mulcahy maintained throughout that the incidents had never happened and said he could not understand why he was being accused.
During the trial, he said he had been surprised that he had only been interviewed once by police and queried why detectives had not tried to corroborate his version of events.
The court heard that his mobile phone, laptop and other devices had been seized when he was arrested, but nothing of relevance was discovered showing a sexual interest in young people.
Some of his colleagues also gave evidence that Mr Mulcahy had been a good and reliable teacher who was committed to helping pupils.
‘Stickler for the rules’
The trial heard that he was a “stickler for the rules” and no concerns had ever been raised about his behaviour to female pupils.
In his summing up of the case, Judge Forster said: “He thought the police would make more extensive enquiries which, as you know, they did not.”
He was charged with three offences, but the jury took just four hours to clear him of all counts, leading to emotional scenes in the courtroom.
Mr Mulachy’s wife of 34 years and his three grown-up daughters sobbed with relief as the verdicts were handed down.
A spokesman for the CPS said that it was satisfied the case had been properly investigated and that there had been a realistic prospect of conviction when the defendant was charged.
They said: “Decisions to prosecute are based on our legal test which we apply when deciding whether to authorise charges.
“It is not the function of the CPS to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether it is appropriate to present charges for the criminal court to consider.
“That assessment is based on whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction when put to a jury.”
They added: “In this case, we were satisfied that the case was properly investigated and that there was sufficient evidence provided for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction. We respect the jury’s decision in this case.”
Dorset Police defends investigation
Dorset Police said that officers had done a “thorough and detailed investigation”, but would await contact from the judge before making any further comment.
A Dorset Police spokesman said: “Dorset Police takes allegations of this nature very seriously and we undertook a thorough and detailed investigation. This was reviewed by CPS, which determined it was appropriate to prosecute.
“We want to ensure that we provide an exceptional service to all and therefore we will always reflect on cases to identify any areas for learning and will undertake a review of this investigation if appropriate.
“We will await contact from Judge Forster QC and will take any action that is deemed necessary in due course.”
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