Jodie Rana was convicted of arson. According to the prosecution, Rana returned to the family home where her parents and cat slept, after a night out, poured accellerant on the stairs and set them alight. The prosecution alleged that her motivation was to get her ex-partner in trouble by accusing him of the crime. Much of the evidence concerned Rana’s telephone, and showed that she had been near her home address at relvant times and that she had made telephone calls at particular times. Evidence purportedly demonstrated that Rana’s phone had connected to the home’s wireless router at 2.15am, five minutes before the smoke alarm was triggered. An expert report said this was consistent with the phone being within a 20-25 meter raduis of the home address. This was based on the Virgin router literature and no independent tests had been carried out. Rana argued she had been about 80 meters away, smoking a cigarette and that the phone regularly connected much further away than suggested by the prosecution. Despite that, an agreed fact was put before the jury to the effect that the phone could not have been located outside a 25 metre radius of the home. On appeal, tests conducted by an expert showed “reasonably solid service” 72 meters away from the router, and several areas up to 160 meters away where the handset logged onto the network and exchanged data. The court concluded that the fresh evidence undermining this important part of the prosecution case rendered the conviction unsafe.
“We now know that the expert evidence was wrong and the appellant’s account on that aspect of the case was credible.”Lord Burnett of Maldon CJ (Regina v Rana).