Abandoned rape case blamed on police and CPS failings

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Abandoned rape case blamed on police and CPS failings

A prisoner sitting on her bed in the first night suite at HMP Holloway, the main womens prison in London.

Abandoned rape case blamed on police and CPS failings

A woman who was allegedly raped decided to abandon her case  after more than five years of investigation. The unnamed woman cited failures in the police and CPS’s handling of her case.

This story broke on the same day that a police watchdog warned that thousands of rape and sexual assault cases were going unreported. The “inadequate” reporting by, among others, Thames Valley police, demonstrated that up to one in five cases went unrecorded.

Drawing her ordeal to a frustrating and incomplete close, the woman, who was a teenager at the time, spoke to the Guardian last week: ‘The system that everything goes through is completely wrong.’ She added that ‘If it happened again I would rather not report it. I want to start healing. I hope this will never happen to anyone else again.’

In September 2013, after working a shift at a London hotel the woman went to bed. During the night, it was alleged that she was awoken by a man, a former partner, in the process of assaulting her. She immediately ran across road to another hotel where the police were called and the initial complaint was made. This was just the beginning of a prolonged, failure-filled investigation.

The police initially arrested the suspect, but released him shortly after. He was then believed to have absconded abroad. In 2015, the victim queried the progress of the investigation.

Through a letter of apology, it became clear that there had been basic breakdowns in communication between the police and the CPS, during which the suspect skipped bail. After the CPS authorized the police to charge him, nothing happened. It was only down to the victim’s persistence that a new senior prosecutor applied for a European Arrest Warrant. This then went missing in the process of sending it to the police. Then, the police and CPS spent four months trying to ascertain whether Westminster Magistrates had signed the arrest warrant.

It was not until October 2017 that a new warrant was signed.

But she did not blame individuals: ‘The police officers were lovely ladies but they were so frustrated. They were trying their best but there’s a lack of resources.’

This case once again exemplified that the police, CPS and courts were ‘struggling to cope with sexual offences’, said the charity  Rape Crisis.

Meanwhile, Zoe Billingham, of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, said that she was ‘disappointed’ with the inadequate recording of rape and sexual assault cases in specific forces. Matt Par, North Yorkshire’s inspector of constabulary, added that ‘too many offences continue to go unrecorded and therefore not investigated properly. The force is potentially depriving victims of the services and justice to which they are entitled’.

These stories of failure both add to the pressure on the police and CPS and come after multiple rape cases have collapsed in recent months as a result of, amongst other things, disclosure issues. Angela Rafferty QC, the head of the criminal bar, last month weighed in calling failures in investigation a ‘dystopian disaster’ caused by chronic underfunding.

A CPS spokesperson addressed the particular case: ‘We accept the CPS could have done more to expedite the European Arrest Warrant which was eventually issued for him and remains in place. We have explained our handling of the case and apologised to the complainant.’

This article was first published on February 19, 2018