Woman known as Sarah has compensation increased after she made allegation against husband before changing her mind, under pressure from him
The judge said the victim has been punished unfairly for claims of not cooperating with police.
Monday 1 August 2016 18.55 BSTLast modified on Monday 1 August 201623.20 BST
A domestic violence victim who was jailed for retracting an allegation of rape, which was actually true, will have her compensation increased after an appeal judge ruled she had been unfairly punished for failing to fully cooperate with police.
The woman, known by the pseudonym Sarah, was sentenced to eight months in prison in 2010 for perverting the course of justice, but she was released on appeal after serving two weeks.
Ordering her early release, the most senior judge in England and Wales accepted that her husband had raped her in November 2009, after years of domestic violence. The lord chief justice acknowledged that she subsequently tried to retract the allegation after coming under pressure from her husband, only to change her mind again when the case against him was dropped, and she was subsequently charged with perverting the course of justice.
Sarah, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the abuse, eventually won compensation for her ordeal. But her award was reduced by 40% because of the cost of the abandoned rape case and a further 30% due to two minor driving convictions accrued in the traumatic aftermath of her jail term.
In what her lawyers believe is a milestone decision, an appeal judge has rejected the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) argument that Sarah failed to cooperate with the prosecution by retracting her truthful complaint of rape.
Judge H Levenson, of the upper tribunal administrative appeals chamber at the high court, quashed the decision to deduct 40% of the award on the grounds that “the applicant failed to cooperate with the police or other authority in attempting to bring the assailant to justice”.
He wrote in his judgment: “I simply do not see how, in this particular case, any reasonable tribunal could have gone on to make any deduction [on the above grounds].” He sent the case back to the CICA for reassessment.
“We hope the CICA will accept the significant trauma this crime has caused,” said David Malone, Sarah’s barrister, who acted pro bono, along with Adrian Waterman QC and solicitor Mike Hayward at Woodfines.
“Sarah will now get 70% of her award and her case has clarified the law for other victims of rape whose claims fall to be considered by the CICA. Never again should the CICA put victims in the same position. However, we will invite the CICA to now award Sarah the full award in light of the learned appeal judge’s comments. Further, we shall bring this case to the attention of the Victim’s Commissioner to ensure that such injustice never happens again,” he said.
Rape victims can apply for financial compensation whether or not their attacker goes to jail. The CICA awards varying amounts according to the severity of injuries, from a basic payment of £11,000 to a maximum of about £44,000. The awards can be reduced or denied on the basis of having a minor conviction for smoking cannabis, a driving offence or shoplifting.
Lisa Longstaff from Women Against Rape (War), which made written submissions to the judge, said: “Sarah finally got some justice! CICA rules are applied in a sexist and uncompassionate way, and War is one of very few sources of help to challenge them. Judge Levenson made it clear that the CICA should not have reduced Sarah’s award because of motoring convictions either, but was unable to overturn that for technical reasons.
“This ruling will benefit other victims of rape who often face disbelief and vindictiveness from officialdom. CICA officers have the discretion to discriminate even against the most vulnerable rape victims, including vulnerable girls in care in Rotherham, who were criminalised for underage drinking, criminal damage or crimes of poverty like prostitution, while their attackers got away with rape and torture.”
Malone said Sarah’s fight to clear her name would continue: “Whilst this criminal injuries compensation appeal achieves the first act of justice for Sarah, her battle to overturn her conviction for perverting the course of justice continues. We are now referring her case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, in autumn of this year. We contend that the decision to prosecute Sarah was a breach of her human rights and wholly disproportionate in the circumstances of her case.”
Note from Lisa: NB two important things were omitted from this article – probably due to space considerations. That Layla Ibrahim’s appeal has similarly gone to the CCRC for re-investigation, and we are encouraging people to sign our petition, see the film, like the facebook page here www.facebook/laylaisinnocent, and tweet
And that WAR had help from Adam Wagner QC in writing our submission to the court.