UK Politics

Sex attack victim "positive" after meeting with Clarke

The victim of an attempted rape who confronted the justice secretary over sentencing plans has said her meeting with him was "very positive".

Gabrielle Browne, from London, told BBC Radio 5 live that she now believed Ken Clarke's proposals were "fair enough".

She had clashed with Mr Clarke in a phone-in over the idea of cutting sentences for rapists who plead guilty.

Mr Clarke was later forced to apologise after appearing to suggest some rapes were not as serious as others.

In Mr Clarke's interview a week ago, he had discussed his proposals to halve jail terms for people who plead guilty to various crimes, including rapists.

He later offered to meet Ms Browne, who had broken down in tears during the phone-in discussion, after she described the idea of reducing sentences as a "disaster".

Appearing again on BBC Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire programme, Ms Browne said Mr Clarke had been clearer about his proposals during their meeting on Tuesday.

She said: "I accept his argument now that he's been clearer in his definition of when the 50% reduction would apply.

"So if, let's say in my case, the offender had been arrested and charged and had pleaded guilty, I wouldn't have gone on to suffer the trauma I suffered."

She indicated that she agreed the proposal would save police and court time.

Ms Browne also said the justice secretary had listened to her experience and "fully accepted that there are some areas that need improving".

She backed the recommendations of a review of rape cases, which found that every victim should be offered the support of a specialist adviser.

Ms Browne said: "For every victim of crime, especially those of sexual offences, I would like the criminal justice system to consider a victim throughout the process.

"At the moment a victim is treated like a piece of evidence in an evidence bag."

Following the meeting - which lasted for about an hour - Mr Clarke said: "I have had a thought-provoking meeting with Ms Browne.

"She went through a horrific ordeal and I was keen to hear her first-hand experience of the criminal justice system. I promised that I would reflect carefully on our useful discussion."

Ms Browne had called BBC Radio 5 live as Mr Clarke was explaining his proposals to halve the sentences for offenders who plead guilty early.

She said she had fought for 688 days to have her attacker brought to justice, only for him to have his sentence reduced for a guilty plea.

During the discussion, Mr Clarke appeared to describe some kinds of rape as more serious than others, leading to calls for his resignation from Labour leader Ed Miliband. But Mr Clarke accused Labour of "pathetic" bandwagon jumping.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said no decision on reform of the sentencing discount had been made.

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