CPS apologises to sexual assault victim

// 20 September 2010

Channel 4 News reported earlier that the Crown Prosecution Service has apologised to a woman who was blamed for the breakdown of the trial against the man who sexually assaulted her. “Josephine” had been told that her anonymity would be protected during the trial, but just minutes before she was due to give evidence she was told that the screen designed to shield her from the defendant would not be provided. Having been given very little time to decide what to do next, she agreed to give evidence without the screen, but inadvertently revealed that the man had been to prison, and the trial was discontinued. She says she had not been told that she could not refer to the man’s criminal history, and no one explained why the trial had been discontinued:

“When things began to go wrong and I was told I wouldn’t be coming in the next day – I began to feel that I was no longer being treated as a vulnerable victim and witness, but as a problem.”

Josephine tried to get some explanation from the CPS after the case collapsed but they repeatedly told her “the case is dead.” She says the CPS told her “The only way you could get a retrial is if he does it to you again.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions at the CPS has now – one year later – issued Josephine with an apology and she has been given £16,000 compensation. The CPS claim that Josephine’s is an isolated case, but as her lawyer pointed out, the findings of the Stern Review earlier this year – not to mention the experiences of victim support groups across the country – show that it is sadly one of many.

Much respect to Josephine for fighting so hard for this apology, and for speaking out in support of others who have been doubly-victimised in this cruel way.

Image by Brymo, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 20 September 2010 at 11:02 pm

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that ‘Josephine’ had to endure immense pressure wherein ‘those in power’ sought to make her change her mind and cease her challenge to the CPS. So we mustn’t ever forget that challenging the male supremacist system is always very, very hard when it is a woman doing the challenging.

Nor must we forget Josephine’s solicitor told the channel 4 news reporter that Josephine’s case was not an ‘isolated one’ but that in fact her case is common. Meaning of course that there continues to scepticism and rampant disbelief/dismissal of women survivors of men’s sexual violence committed against them. Conveniently the CPS changed their minds at the last minute and declined to give an interview to the channel 4 news reporter, whereas earlier they had confirmed a representative would be available. Guilty feelings or did CPS change their minds because they didn’t want to be subjected to minute intimate (sic) cross examination from a news reporter determined not to be fobbed off by excuses or pathetic justifications as to why female rape survivors are commonly treated as dehumanised beings.

I myself know that screens are commonly not available within courts and the usual excuses are always made – even the claim that providing them is too expensive to the court system. Don’t believe the hype the CPS and male-dominant legal system claim because there have been too few changes with regards as to how police and CPS investigate and prosecute males charged with this crime. I’ve seen first hand prosecution witnesses and defendant’s family/supporters having to share the same public waiting area. But the CPS continues to claim this no longer occurs.

£16,000 is a paltry sum given ‘Josephine’ has post traumatic stress and yes this condition does exist – it is not limited to ‘male soldiers.’

Sheila // Posted 21 September 2010 at 8:58 am

@But Jennifer

this isn’t about “rampant disbelief” – though I’d agree with you that it is prevalent – not sure I like your use of the term rampant in the circumstances, please – this case was about a witness having been poorly briefed so that she inadvertently referred to the accused criminal record and thus prejudiced a fair trial. We can’t expect victims to know the intracacies of court procedure so I do blame the CPS for not briefing her properly beforehand, and also blame them for not apologising and explaining to her earlier what had gone wrong. The CPS must have been pretty miffed to lose the conviction too. But this case, for once isn’t about disbelief. We’d get a lot further with making rape trials more successful if there wasn’t an immediate assumption that everything is down to patriachial “rampant” – I still can’t believe you used that word – disbelief.

sianushka // Posted 21 September 2010 at 9:13 am

saw this on the news last night and was disgusted.

ok, so they have apologised, but if he was guilty, he is allowed to walk free, and may well attack more women. how many women are going to be raped by how many men who walk free before the police and CPS sort this shit out?

and the review of police handling of rape, which impacts on this case, has been been dropped to save a paltry £441,000

Meanwhile, we spend £17 mill (?) entertaining a man who systematically covered up rape.

this government have issued or proposed policy after policy that have hurt women in the 20 or so weeks they came to power.

helen // Posted 21 September 2010 at 10:44 am

Well done to Josephine. But it really shouldn’t be necessary for women to fight this hard for the things that the law is supposed to provide us with.

When I was raped, I had to fight the police, the CPS and CICA to get even the barest level of support and legal provision. No case was ever brought in my case and all 16 police officers involved were disciplined. But I had to threaten to take CICA to judicial review when they withheld 25% of my award because I’d been drinking and was therefore partially to blame for my injury. This was successfully challenged and the law changed to prevent it happening again.

Each time a Josephine pushes for an apology and sets a precedent, it becomes a little bit harder to ignore the needs of victims and things change. Look what happened to Sapphire…

£16,000 isn’t a huge amount, but if Josephine is anything like myself or the other women I know, it was more about the recognition and apology. I think it’s dangerous to mention the cash amounts as ‘paltry’ or ‘huge’ as it helps feed the Daily Mail reader belief that women report rape and sexual assault to claim money. We need to challenge the authorities and the public at the same time. Their prejudices are two sides of the same coin…

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