A man who was wrongly jailed for 17 years for a rape he did not commit could have been freed years earlier, according to a report.

Andrew Malkinson, 57, was wrong accused of raping a woman from Kearsley in Little Hulton in 2003 and was not freed until 2020.

His conviction was finally quashed and he was declared an innocent man last month, but case files seen by the Guardian newspaper appear to show police and prosecutors actually knew as early as 2007 that another man’s DNA was found on the woman’s clothes.

Mr Malkinson said: “If the CCRC had investigated properly, it would have spared me years in prison for a crime I did not commit.

“I feel an apology is the least I am owed, but it seems like the very body set up to address the system’s fallibility is labouring under the delusion that it is itself infallible. How many more people has it failed?”

The Bolton News: Andrew Malkinson spent years in jail for a crime he did not commitAndrew Malkinson spent years in jail for a crime he did not commit (Image: PA)

The case files obtained by Mr Malkinson as he battled to be freed show that officers and prosecutors knew forensic testing in 2007 had identified a searchable male DNA profile on the rape victim’s vest top that did not match his own.

They opted to take no further action and there is no record that they told the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the body responsible for investigating possible miscarriages of justice, according to the report.

The CPS said Mr Malkinson’s lawyers were told of the new DNA evidence.

The CCRC refused to order further forensic testing or refer the case for appeal in 2012 and the case files reportedly suggest it was worried about costs.

Mr Malkinson’s solicitor Emily Bolton said: “The documents are a shocking chronicle of how Andy was utterly failed by the body which should have put an end to his wrongful conviction nightmare, but instead acted as a barrier to justice.

“An overhaul of the CCRC is needed to prevent it failing other innocent prisoners.”

Notes of a meeting between the Forensic Science Service, the CPS and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in December 2009 suggests the CPS understood the possible importance of the 2007 DNA find, according to the report.

CPS guidance states it “must write to the CCRC at the earliest opportunity about any case in which there is doubt about the safety of the conviction”.

An internal log of Mr Malkinson’s first application to the CCRC in 2009 – in a bid to appeal against his conviction – reportedly reveals CCRC highlighted the cost of further testing and said it would be unlikely to lead to his conviction being quashed.

James Burley, investigator at Appeal, said: “These records prove that the CCRC’s handling of Andy’s case was deeply flawed and a complete mess.

“By not bothering to obtain the police files, the CCRC failed to uncover evidence which could have got Andy’s name cleared a decade earlier.”

He added: “The CCRC’s internal comments show that in deciding not to commission any DNA testing, cost was at the forefront of their considerations. That decision may have saved the CCRC some money, but it came at a brutal cost for both Andy and the victim.

The CCRC has been giving the false impression that a DNA breakthrough could not have been achieved by them sooner.

“These records show that is nonsense, and I don’t think they would have commissioned any DNA enquiries on this case at all if APPEAL hadn’t obtained new DNA testing results ourselves first.”

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A CPS spokesperson told The Guardian: “It is clear Mr Malkinson was wrongly convicted of this crime and we share the deep regret that this happened.

“Evidence of a new DNA profile found on the victim’s clothing in 2007 was not ignored. It was disclosed to the defence team representing Mr Malkinson for their consideration.

“In addition, searches of the DNA databases were conducted to identify any other possible suspects. At that time there were no matches and therefore no further investigation could be carried out.”

The CCRC told the newspaper: “As we have said before, it is plainly wrong that a man spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.”