Ipswich: Judge throws out sex assault charges against customs officer

FELIXSTOWE: A customs officer accused of sexually assaulting a young girl more than 30 years ago has been found not guilty after a judge threw out the charges against him.

Ian Flatman, 52, was arrested last year after a woman in her 30s made a statement to police claiming he had indecently touched her when she was aged between four and six and he was in his late teens.

She had claimed that two of the alleged offences took place at a fish and chip shop run by his parents in Beach Station Road, Felixstowe, and that a third alleged offence happened at her family home while Flatman was babysitting.

Mr Flatman, of King Street, Felixstowe, who has no previous convictions, denied the allegations during police interviews and pleaded not guilty to three offences of indecent assault between 1976 and 1978.

He went on trial at Ipswich Crown Court last week, but after hearing evidence from prosecution and defence witnesses the trial judge, John Holt, directed the jury to return not-guilty verdicts on all three charges. He told the jury that, where evidence is given after many years, extreme care had to be taken and it was up to the trial judge and not the jury to decide what to make of any discrepancies and to assess if the case was safe to be left to the jury.

He said that because of discrepancies in the alleged victim’s evidence, and that of other witnesses, he did not feel the jury could safely convict Mr Flatman.

He said that as defence and prosecution experts disagreed about whether or not the memory of the alleged victim could be relied on the jury could not be sure who was right.

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In addition, notes taken when the alleged victim attended counselling sessions in 1999 and 2002 were not available and Mr Flatman was “seriously prejudiced” by their absence.

Giving evidence in the trial, Mr Flatman said he could recollect the girl visiting his parents’ shop, but nothing untoward had happened.

He said there was “no truth whatsoever” in the allegations. Mr Flatman, who hugged his sister as he left court, declined to comment after the case.