UK

Human Rights Act Used By Teenage Rape Victim Who Police Didn't Believe - And Then Arrested For Lying

22/05/2015 11:17 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 11:59 BST

The Human Rights act has been used by a rape victim who police didn't believe - and then arrested for perverting the course of justice.

Hampshire Constabulary has now apologised to the victim, who was 17 at the time of the incident and later attempted suicide, and agreed to pay her a £20,000 out-of-court settlement.

Police reached an agreement with the woman, named only as Laura, after she began proceedings against the force under the Human Rights Act, which the Tory government is planning to scrap and replace with a 'British Bill of Rights'.

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Police didn't believe the girl and then arrested her [file photo]

The girl's rape complaint in 2012 was initially ignored. Documents seen by the Guardian claim that detectives decided the girl was lying within two days of the rape report. One detective inspector, who was supervising the inquiry, reportedly told a junior colleague to “Fucking nick her.”

Two months after making her rape complaint in 2012, the woman was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice following forensic tests on her clothes not returning a result, the BBC reported.

The Crown Prosecution Service eventually ordered retests of the clothing and her attacker was eventually jailed for five years in 2013.

Speaking to the broadcaster, the woman's mother - given the pseudonym Jacqui - explained that Laura had attempted suicide twice after her arrest and that her mental health had deteriorated.

She said: "I was horrified. You expect them to do everything they can to put the rapist away."

The woman's mother continued: "She started self-harming again. She attempted twice on her life because she couldn't cope."

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It was not until six months after being arrested that Laura finally learned she was in the clear.

Chief Superintendent David Powell admitted the initial handling of the case had been "poor".

Addressing other sexual assault victims, he added: "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."

The force also confirmed that one officer had received a written warning for misconduct, while 10 had received management action.

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Hampshire Constabulary paid the girl in an out-of-court settlement

Jacqui believed the attitude of detectives had been affected by the fact her daughter had previously been in trouble with the police before the rape, according to the programme.

She said of the police officers: "I think it's disgusting. I think if you're in the middle of an investigation and you've been named they shouldn't let you resign or retire.

"They're all right, aren't they? They haven't had to go through solicitor's meetings and meetings with the police and, you know, they're all right, they're sat on their cushty pension in their nice big house."

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In a statement released by Hampshire police, Mr Powell said: "Our initial assessment and handling of this case in 2012 was very poor and we are not proud of our initial response.

"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.

"Once I became aware of what had happened, I immediately ordered a new investigation working very closely with the victim. By quickly taking these steps, we were able to provide the right investigative response with supportive and compassionate officers to obtain the evidence required which secured the prosecution and conviction of this offender.

"We are grateful that this victim gave us a second chance to put this investigation right and ensure this individual was punished. He is now serving a five year sentence and is on the sexual offenders register.

"We accept the way we initially treated this victim fell well below the standard we would expect.

"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 and we took action at the time by referring this case to our Professional Standards Department.

As a result of this referral, one officer received a written warning for misconduct and 10 officers have been given management action.

"We have already conducted a review of the failings of this case and one of the improvements we have made was implementing a specialist dedicated unit who received additional training in rape investigations and who work with vulnerable victims, providing support, advice and investigative expertise from the initial reporting right through to any criminal proceedings and beyond.

"We have changed our internal processes and any decision by an investigating officer to discontinue a rape investigation or release a suspect with no further action has to be agreed by an independent panel chaired by an assistant chief constable. This demonstrates how seriously we have responded to this case and how seriously we take sexual offence investigations.

"I would like to reassure all victims of sexual assault that we do take you seriously. We do believe you, we appreciate how hard it is to come forward to report these offences, we do not judge you and we are committed to ensuring a professional and supportive response. We are doing everything to ensure we never have an initial response like this again."