UK

Rape victim gets £20,000 from Hampshire police

  • 22 May 2015
  • From the section UK
Media captionRape victim's mother: "I was horrified"

A rape victim will receive a £20,000 out-of-court settlement after a police force apologised for failing to investigate her complaint properly and arresting her.

The woman, who was 17 at the time of the rape in 2012, tried to kill herself after she was told she could face charges for lying about the attack.

Her rapist was convicted and jailed for five years in 2013.

Hampshire Constabulary said it was "sorry for how we let her down".

The woman's lawyer Debaleena Dasgupta told the BBC she had been able to seek justice only because of the Human Rights Act, and said her client was concerned about plans to repeal it.

'Horrified'

Laura, which is not her real name, was at a house with friends after a night out when she was raped by a man who was part of the group.

Laura reported the rape to police in Winchester, but her mother - "Jackie" - told the BBC the officers who responded "weren't very sympathetic".

Laura told officers she believed there was forensic evidence on her T-shirt, which implicated her attacker.

The police did not carry out a full test and failed to find any evidence, Jackie said.

Police later arrested Laura on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

"I was horrified," said Jackie.

"A woman comes forward and tells the police authority she has been raped: You expect them to do everything they can to put the rapist away."

Jackie believes the officers' attitude to her daughter was influenced by the fact she had been in trouble with the police in the past.

Her daughter also had mental health problems.

Following the arrest, Jackie said Laura started self-harming again, before trying to commit suicide twice "because she couldn't cope".

"She just couldn't believe she wasn't believed," Jackie said.

Written warning

Four months after her arrest, detectives visited Laura to tell her they believed her story.

The Crown Prosecution Service had asked for the T-shirt to be thoroughly tested and the rapist was charged.

Laura began proceedings against Hampshire Constabulary using the Human Rights Act.

The force decided to settle out of court and investigated a number of officers involved in the case.

One was given a written warning and three others were allowed to resign or retire during the internal investigation.

Jackie said: "I think it is disgusting.

"If you're in the middle of an investigation and you've been named, they shouldn't let you resign or retire, because you are answerable to that."

She added: "I'm glad that they have admitted that they were wrong.

"But... if it can happen to my daughter, how many more can it happen to?"

Ms Dasgupta added: "Without the Human Rights Act, Laura would not have been able to seek justice for the shocking way she was treated by the police."

She told the BBC they had been able to take action under Article 3 of the act, which relates to inhuman or degrading treatment.

She said: "If the police don't investigate a rape properly, you can argue that they have breached your human rights and only in those circumstance can you get justice... There is no other duty under common law in order to do that."

The government plans to scrap the act and introduce a British Bill of Rights to "break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights" and make the UK's Supreme Court "the ultimate arbiter of human right matters", according to the Conservative party's manifesto.

Image caption This is not the first case of a police force paying compensation to a rape victim

Lisa Longstaff, from campaign group Women Against Rape, told the BBC that Laura's case was "very common".

"It is really a shocking reflection of how rape and domestic violence have been handled in this country… we are still seeing these appalling cases, time after time, where actually the victim is turned into a suspect," she said.

She said the Human Rights Act has been "one of the few ways that victims can take action when there are negligent or corrupt investigations to hold authorities to account".

The Ministry of Justice said ministers were due to discuss the plan for a British Bill of Rights and would make an announcement in due course.

It said there are other avenues, aside from the Human Rights Act, that victims of crime can pursue in cases such as this.

For example, under the right to review scheme, brought in England and Wales in 2013, victims can appeal against a decision not to bring charges or to discontinue a case once a prosecution has begun.

'We believe you'

Chief Superintendent David Powell, of Hampshire Constabulary, said initial handling of the case had been "poor".

"We have already personally apologised to the victim and her mother and I repeat here now that we are sorry for how we let her down."

He added: "The initial officers involved did not treat this victim in a way that she or any other victim would deserve to be treated. We deeply regret this."

He said he wanted to reassure all victims of sexual assault that they would be taken seriously.

"We do believe you, we appreciate how hard it is to come forward to report these offences... we are doing everything to ensure we never have an initial response like this again."

Simon Hayes, police and crime commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, said "significant changes" had been made to the way sexual assault cases were handled by the force.

"It is entirely unacceptable for victims of crime not to be listened to and taken seriously," he said.

He said that, under new legislation, no officer involved in misconduct proceedings could resign or retire before a judgement was made on their conduct.

There are other examples of police forces in the UK paying compensation to rape victims.

In 2014, the victim of an alleged rape whose evidence was lost by Avon and Somerset Police received a £7,500 payout and in 2012 a woman who made a rape complaint that was not properly investigated was given an out-of-court settlement of £15,000 by the Metropolitan Police.

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