Wrongly jailed ex-fire chief slams ‘diabolical’ compensation delay

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David Bryant
David Bryant has grown frustrated at the way the Ministry of Justice has handled his compensation claim

A RETIRED fire chief who was wrongly imprisoned for nearly three years after being accused of a historical rape, has branded 20-month delays to decide his compensation claim “diabolical”.

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David Bryant (69), who lives in Christchurch, was declared innocent and set free from jail in early 2016 after the man who accused him was exposed as a liar.

Danny Day had alleged Mr Bryant and a now deceased colleague, Dennis Goodman, jointly raped him at the town’s fire station in the mid-1970s.

Mr Bryant was later jailed for more than eight years but the case fell apart when it was revealed Mr Day admitted previously to medics he had an “extensive history” of lying.

A High Court judge blasted Dorset Police for the way it investigated the claims by Mr Day – saying it should have been clear to them at the outset he was motivated by money.

After his release in 2016 and the death of his devoted wife Lynn – who did much to expose Mr Day’s lies – Mr Bryant launched a claim for compensation with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the time he wrongly spent in jail.

David Bryant
David Bryant with a photo of him and his late wife Lynn, who fought hard to prove his innocence before her death

He was told by the MoJ in March 2018 it would take three months to resolve but he is still waiting for an answer.

Speaking to the A&T at his Grove Road East home, Mr Bryant revealed his anger at the time it was taking. “It’s diabolical,” the frustrated former firefighter said.

“I’m just really beginning to wish I had never started it to be honest. It’s keeping me hanging on and on and you cannot move on from anything. As I understand it, all it is, is a paper exercise.”

He continued: “I would have thought once a High Court judge said that’s it, he is not guilty, they would have wanted to move on and sort it out. What’s that old saying about the wheels of justice turning slowly? Well, I never imagined they would move this slowly.”

The delays, Mr Bryant added, have only increased his feeling that he’s been dealt a “very bad hand” by justice. “What with all what’s gone before I do feel hard done by,” he said.

Mr Bryant had enjoyed a 40-year unblemished career with Dorset Fire and Rescue, during which he had been head of the Christchurch retained fire crew, before accusations against him surfaced.

Mr Bryant was awarded a series of accolades due to his fire service – including this community safety certificate

His trial and conviction tarnished his good name and resulted in him being stripped of the freeman of Christchurch award he had been given. It has since been restored.

The saga began on 20th October 2012 when Mr Bryant and his wife found a handwritten note on their doormat from Mr Day. In it he said he was going to police and newspapers that night to make claims against Mr Bryant and warned the firefighter he would “pay”.

Lynn reported the letter to Dorset Police and said the pair were being blackmailed. The force also received a complaint from Mr Day, which it chose to investigate.

Mr Bryant stood trial and was found guilty at Bournemouth Crown Court of buggery by a jury on a majority. His six-year jail term was later increased to eight-and-half by the Court of Appeal.

But private investigators hired by Lynn later discovered a psychiatrist’s report revealed Mr Day’s “extensive history of self-reporting as a liar who deceived people” and that a number of his claims were false. A witness also retracted a claim Mr Day reported the sexual assault to him.

As a result the conviction was quashed and Mr Bryant walked free from prison in 2016. But tragedy struck when Lynn died suddenly shortly after his release at the age of 54.

Mr Bryant later launched a counter-claim – not for money, but to secure factual declarations from a High Court judge as to what had happened.

In a damning ruling in February 2018, Grand Master Gary Thornett heavily criticised Dorset Police for the way it investigated Mr Day’s allegation and said it was apparent Mr Bryant was an innocent man tainted by an accuser motivated by money.

Mr Bryant called on Dorset Police to apologise to him but it has not done so. Following that High Court judgement he made his compensation application to the MoJ.

A spokesperson for the MoJ said it could not comment.

However, the A&T has seen MoJ correspondence sent to Mr Bryant’s barrister, Rupert Butler, which is dated March 2018 and states it will aim to resolve the dispute within “three months”.

Since then, Mr Butler has chased up the MoJ on multiple occasions to no avail.

The correspondence states Mr Bryant’s claim is “under active consideration” by the Miscarriage of Justice Applications Service (MOJAS), stating: “In the event that we have not reached a decision on your client’s application within the next three months, we will write to you again.”

One MoJ reply further explains: “For each application, MOJAS carries out enquiries so that the secretary of state has all the required information before making a decision.”

That involved contacting external agencies to confirm the facts included in each application, it continues, adding: “It can take some time to obtain all the documents and further enquires may be required after receiving initial documents depending on the circumstances.”

Mr Butler told the A&T: “It is bad enough Dave was deprived of his liberty for so long as a result of incompetent policing and poor prosecution decisions.

“But to find himself at the mercy of the Deep State’s inefficient and indifferent bureaucratic machine is an insult too far for someone who devoted his life to impeccable public service – he deserves far, far better.”

Mr Bryant stressed he was thankful for the support he has received. “The day after I got out of prison me and Lynn went into Christchurch and everybody was brilliant. I’ve never had a problem in the town, everyone was very understanding. It helped restore my faith in people.”

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