Standing in the dock, accused of crimes he did not commit, Liam Allan’s life was in shreds.
After nearly two years of mental torture, he was charged with 12 counts of rape and sexual assault.
The allegations were utterly false and a trail of texts – a staggering 60,000 of them – would prove this. But police had not disclosed vital evidence.
By the time he had been dragged through the system, 25-year-old Liam’s career dream – ironically, he wanted to be a police officer or work for the Ministry of Justice – was wrecked.
Any semblance of a personal life was shattered too.
But in an amazing twist of fate, he then met Hannah Arkwright, who had faced a similar ordeal – accused of domestic violence by a spiteful ex.
Hannah, 23, and Liam fell for each other instantly and now have adorable eight-month-old Cara.
Liam said: “We’re an example of making the best out of a horrible situation and finding the good in the bad.”
And Hannah added: “We went to a bar and had a few drinks and haven’t stopped speaking since.”
Hannah was quizzed by police several times but waited more than a year to learn she faced no further action.
The law graduate’s life changed for the better when she heard Liam speak at an event he had organised in Cardiff in March 2019.
Now the pair have set up a charity aimed at helping those who become entangled in the criminal justice system through no fault of their own.
Called The Defendant, it will offer a free helpline and advice on where to turn to for those in the same position as they once were.
Former criminology student Liam was three days into his trial for rape and sexual assault at Croydon Crown Court when it transpired tens of thousands of texts showing he was not guilty had not been disclosed.
They revealed that the “victim” had continued to pester him for casual sex after the alleged incident.
Texts between her and friends also said what a kind person Liam was, how much she loved him – and that she had had a great experience with him.
Alarmingly, there were even references to rape fantasies.
Liam had no idea why police turned up at his door in January 2016 and he suffered panic attacks after being charged. He faced court in late 2017 – and the Metropolitan Police later apologised, admitting they failed to find evidence among the messages.
The entire download from his phone was not passed to the defence because the officer in the case said there was “nothing relevant on it”.
Liam’s case led to every rape probe in England and Wales being checked to make sure there were no issues surrounding the disclosure of evidence.
His campaigning work against miscarriages of justice has put a block on a career in the police.
So he now works at a scientific research publishing company. Liam said: “It’s difficult to explain the effect it had on my life. It left this void. There was something so big in my life for two years.
“It was anti-climactic once things panned out. There was just this limbo stage.
“I can’t go down the career path I initially wanted. I wanted to join the police potentially or the Ministry of Justice – that was why I did criminology. It felt like my degree became a bit worthless.”
Meanwhile, Hannah was facing her own battle for justice. She was accused of domestic violence by an ex after a relationship ended badly.
Hannah was horrified by the allegations, which threw her life into turmoil.
It took a year for the Met Police to drop the case due to lack of evidence. By then, she says, her mental health had been severely affected. Hannah said: “My investigation went on for a year and never went to trial. We went back and forth with the police but in the end it was dropped because there was no evidence.
“It dragged on because the investigating officer changed a few times. One went sick, one was just incompetent and it would restart and I’d be re-interviewed. So we did the whole thing three times. It was horrible. It left a sour taste. Obviously I was pleased it wasn’t going any further but my life had been put on hold for a year.”
The accusation meant Hannah couldn’t take up her place at medical school. Her parents forked out tens of thousands of pounds in solicitors’ fees.
After her ordeal, Hannah became interested in the British justice system and its flaws. And that led her to attend Liam’s Innovation of Justice event in Cardiff, organised to give a voice to innocent people wrongly convicted or accused of crimes.
Over a drink afterwards, she and Liam hit it off after sharing their experiences.
Three months later, they discovered they were expecting baby Cara. “We didn’t take things slowly,” Hannah joked.
“I went to one of Liam’s conferences and the rest is really history. I felt so much better talking to Liam and knowing he’d been through the same thing. It’s easy to talk to friends and family and they’re there to listen,
but it is just a different perspective and they often don’t understand the weight you carry and the gravity of the situation.
“They know there’s a chance you can go to prison but what that feels like, they don’t know.”
Just days ago, Liam and Hannah launched The Defendant from their kitchen table in Sutton, South London.
It will give key information to people accused of crimes. There will also be mental health support and advice from those who have been through the system.
Liam said: “It’s more like a legal knowledge hub.
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“In the future, hopefully soon, a help-line will be set up for people that are suffering and need emotional support.”
Hannah added: “A lot of people have said things have gone wrong in their cases because they didn’t have the info they needed. We want to change that.”
Now Hannah has finished a master’s degree in law, she hopes to become a criminal lawyer while Liam plans to run The Defendant full-time.
For now, they are also focusing on little Cara, a ray of sunshine in the gloom of the last few years.
The tot brings a smile to Liam’s face and he says: “We feel very lucky in that sense.”