Sussex

Eastbourne rape survivor seeks 'loophole' law change

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Media captionCheryl Islip says she wants to help protect other children

A woman raped as a child by her step-grandfather is seeking changes to the way sex abusers are treated after he walked free from court.

Cheryl Islip, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, wants a "loophole" closed which allowed her attacker to avoid being placed on the sex offenders register.

Last October a trial of facts jury found Norman Askew, 88, had sexually abused Ms Islip and another girl.

But he received an absolute discharge as he was deemed unfit to stand trial.

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Ms Islip, who has waived her right to anonymity, was raped when she was 10 years old and gave evidence against Askew at his trial at Lewes Crown Court.

However, part way through the trial his defence team produced evidence saying he was suffering from the early stages of dementia.

After considering the medical evidence, Judge Charles Kemp ruled he was unfit to be tried.

'No justice'

A trial of facts - where the truth of the allegations against the defendant, as opposed to their guilt or innocence, is determined - was then held.

A jury found Askew, from East Sussex, had raped a girl under the age of 16 and committed two counts of indecent assault of a girl under 14 in October 1987, and one count of indecent assault of a girl under 14 in March 1977.

He received an absolute discharge, but with no conviction or sentence he could not be placed on the sex offenders register.

Image copyright Cheryl Islip
Image caption Norman Askew, in a picture taken by Cheryl Islip about 20 years ago

Speaking to BBC South East, Ms Islip said: "He's been allowed to go home with just a slapped wrist.

"There's been some days where I think I can't go on, and if it wasn't for my children I honestly don't think I would be here because of the situation of knowing that someone can do that to children and get away with it.

"There's just no justice."

She has written to the prime minister urging her to make changes in the law to the way elderly perpetrators of abuse are treated by the courts.

Secret recording

Ms Islip first reported the abuse to Sussex Police in 2004, but claims detectives failed to interview her grandmother who held crucial evidence.

In a statement to the BBC, the force said Askew was arrested and interviewed at the time but there was "insufficient evidence" to justify referring the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

In 2011 Ms Islip secretly recorded her step-grandfather in which he admitted "something happened in the bed" but did not admit rape.

Ms Islip gave the recording to police who, she claimed, returned it a short while later saying there was "no suitable evidence".

However, after further evidence was considered a trial was set for 2014, but the case was delayed for 30 months, which the CPS said was due to the defendant's ill health.

Image copyright Cheryl Islip
Image caption Cheryl Islip said she felt let down by the justice system

Ms Islip told the BBC she had felt "let down" by Sussex Police as in the first instance it had seemed "they didn't want to take it seriously - it was too hard to prove".

Sussex Police said it had not ignored the recording, which had "formed part of the evidence" and was taken into consideration by officers in 2011.

It also "formed part of the prosecution case and was played to the jury during the trial in October".

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