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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: The determined wife of a former New South Wales police officer has revealed how she fought to prove her husband’s innocence after he was charged with child sex crimes. Ben Smith was charged in December 2016 with sexually abusing a child under 16 in an incident that allegedly happened 20 years ago. Convinced of his innocence, his wife, Amy Smith, launches her own investigation.
Three months before Ben’s arrest, a woman came to Frenchs Forest police station in Sydney and accused him of assaulting her for five years. The woman, who has not been identified for legal reasons, claimed it started when she was 14 and he was 16.
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When Amy was asked if she had ever doubted Ben throughout the ordeal, including the alleged sexual abuse trials, she said in an interview with 60 Minutes Australia: “No. There have been times when I asked him questions like, “Have you ever been in any kind of relationship?” to which he said, “No.” I asked him certain questions, sure. But did I ever doubt it? “
Amy Smith provided “factual and concrete evidence”
Amy then conducted her own investigation, comparing documents and gathering evidence that the police claimed to have ignored. Ben moved to Sydney in 1996 aged 16 to play rugby league. He lived with a local family and the girl accused of the crime lived in the same house.
The accuser said Ben groomed and sexually abused her 11 times over five years. Amy’s investigation, however, revealed several inconsistencies in her allegations. Amy found evidence that contradicted the girl’s claims that Ben raped her three times in the house in 1999.
Amy proved that Ben was not living in the house at that time and had not visited it that year. At that time, he was nursing a broken leg. The girl’s brother corroborated the evidence.
“What they (the police) said happened couldn’t have happened because he wasn’t there, that’s how we broke it all up,” Amy said . “To be able to provide all this factual and concrete evidence, for me, it was stimulating,” she added.
However, the evidence presented was ignored and Ben faced many years in prison. Since he faced two trials, the first trial ended with an invalid verdict. At the second trial, he was found not guilty on all counts. It was later revealed that the police did not interview the main witness, Aaron Taggart, until six months after the indictment.
“People’s lives are affected”
Although Ben was ultimately found not guilty, he said the allegations ruined his reputation and his career. The couple are demanding accountability for the botched investigation, for which they had to pay $500,000 in legal fees.
Speaking about the incident, former homicide detective Gary Jubelin said: “Police have to understand that it’s a responsibility they have. People’s lives are being affected. I’m saying don’t deter people from reporting these crimes, but as police, we’ve got to make sure we investigate them thoroughly, and we can’t lose sight of the fact that these allegations are very serious allegations.
Jubelin and the Bens have said they support the #MeToo movement, but that may have led investigators to blindly believe the allegations. “We don’t want to come across as anti-complaining people,” Ben said.
“There are victims out there, and they shouldn’t be afraid to press charges,” Amy added. “But when you have people not doing their job properly, it’s a tough pill to swallow,” she added.