Police pay compensation in precedent rape claim

PRESS RELEASE

A landmark civil suit was settled on recently with the Metropolitan police paying £15,000 damages to a woman whose rape when she was 15 was badly mishandled by a police Sapphire Team in Southwark, London. With the scandals in the news of scores of girls raped over years in Rochdale, Rotherham and by Jimmy Savile (and possibly his associates), this case puts the spotlight on the flagship Sapphire Rape Units.

Their response so far is not encouraging. Every time they have been exposed mishandling rape investigations, they have claimed that the units had been restructured and cases like this could not happen again. But they continue to happen. When asked this morning on the Today programme why then the conviction rate for reported rape remained so low, Sapphire’s head DCI Mick Duthie said that 40% of women who report rape to the Met don’t want to prosecute. This is not our experience and is given the lie by the figures. All the women who come to us wanted justice and were prevented from getting it. The Met closes over half the reported rapes, and the CPS closes a further 40% of the rest – all decisions made against victims’ wishes.

This precedent claim is based on the Human Rights Act (Articles 3 and 8) and overturns decades of legal obstruction which has prevented victims of rape from suing the police for negligent investigations. The persistence of a mother campaigning with Women Against Rape and legally represented, has opened the way for other victims of crime to hold the police to account for ineffective investigations. On the basis of this claim and what was established here, others will now hopefully be encouraged to make their case.

Commenting on the settlement, the girl’s mother said:

“The police thought we were going to give up, and unless you fight all the way, they will intimidate you and smash you down with their enormous power and resources. But we were determined to win, for my daughter and all the other girls who have been denied justice. Why should victims who are let down have to go through this?”

“The settlement is not all we wanted, but we have won a lot along the way. We got four officers disciplined. We got a personal written apology from Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions. We got some compensation. But the most senior officer DCI Chambers was never held accountable for his actions. The trial judge criticised the police investigation and referred to non investigated issues as a disgrace. After the complaint investigation, a High Court judge said, ‘…It is reasonable to suspect that had the matter been investigated properly and the corroborative evidence obtained, the result might well have been different.’ This case has shown that the problem is not merely the ‘canteen culture’ at the lowest ranks, but the de-prioritising of rape organised from the top.”

The rape of the 15-year-old by a 28-year-old man took place in 2005. Despite the police having the attacker’s address, his vehicle registration and mobile number, it took three months of pressure by the girl’s mother, and another girl reporting the same man for rape, before he was finally arrested.

But that was not the end of the carelessness Ms X and her daughter suffered. At trial in 2006 it became clear that: the police had not interviewed potential witnesses and had lost crucial phone evidence which would have undermined the Defendant’s account. Not surprisingly, the jury did not convict, leaving the victim and her family shattered.

The man walked free and the girl’s mother contacted WAR, and soon became part of a team campaigning for justice.

Arrangements were made to speak to the media and meet both the local MP and the Borough Commander. This sparked an internal investigation by the head of the Central Sapphire Team, which found that the rape investigation had been wanting, and listed the following “mistakes”:

• “A serious stranger rape attack allocated to a PC [not a detective] to investigate.
• Failure to identify the link between the crime scene and the suspect’s vehicle.
• Failure to visit the crime scene at the earliest opportunity.
• Failure to identify the suspect and arrest at the earliest opportunity.
• Failure to properly investigate the allegation thoroughly and expeditiously, with particular emphasis on the failure to obtain correct telephone records.
• Failure to properly and effectively supervise the investigation.”

This report was not disclosed to the victim and her family until 2012, after a lengthy legal battle. Not satisfied with an apology that did not even offer any explanations, a formal complaint was lodged to the IPCC. Under pressure from the victim, her mother, Women Against Rape, and the victim’s lawyer Debaleena Dasgupta, the IPCC issued an unusually thorough and damning report in 2009. It revealed that:

• The Southwark Sapphire Rape Unit was systematically starved of resources, while resources were diverted to motor crime and robbery. At some points, the Unit was functioning without any trained detectives.

• The Unit left hundreds of rapes and sexual assaults to untrained, unqualified officers. The main officer on this case was a PC who had just joined the unit from Safer Neighbourhoods work. The PC was expected to handle over 30 cases at one time, an overwhelming number, with little or no training or supervision, and no experience of detective work.

• Officers (in this case women) who tried to get rape taken seriously and asked for more resources were rebuffed and blocked at every turn by their (male) superiors.

• Just weeks before, two of the officers in this complaint had been the subject of a complaint on another rape case in which they evaded discipline.

The IPCC report makes clear that the most junior officer struggled under an impossible workload; and while four officers were disciplined, it blames the man in charge the then Deputy Borough Commander DCI Chambers, who set the priorities and starved the Unit of resources could not be disciplined. DCI Chambers was able to refuse to be interviewed, and instead prepared a 37-page statement denying responsibility, retire from the Metropolitan Police and swiftly move to another position – at the Centre for Policing Excellence!

The girl’s mother said, “The police have been vicious in fighting our civil claim, and they fought dirty. I had to listen to them in court and felt that they were insinuating that my daughter hadn’t been raped. And when that didn’t work, they tried to minimise how ill their actions had made her – largely because of the additional trauma of being refused justice after the rape and of our family having to fight over years to get the truth disclosed. My daughter’s life has been destroyed, my 30-year marriage has ended under the stress. These injustices affect whole families and communities, and no amount of money can compensate for our loss. Do the police care? Does the Home Office care?

“This has never been about money. We wanted a declaration that my daughter’s human rights had been breached, an admission which would help to other women and girls. We were ready to go all the way to court to get it, but we were forced to settle because of costs risks – we don’t have the huge resources the police have. Working with WAR I see similar cases coming through our door all the time, so they can’t tell me this is all in the past. Victims are dismissed and ignored, especially children and teenagers. Those officers who want to do their job and complain about lack of support within the force also face obstacles.

“This case proves that the police, even when they admit mistakes, will spend lots of public money to stop victims getting justice.”

As Lisa Longstaff of WAR points out, “They keep saying that everything has changed, but these cases – from Rochdale to Southwark, from Saville to Coleman-Farrow[1] – are a continual reminder of what the police policy on rape is in practice. For many, many women, children and families, it is not just that victims are disbelieved but, believed or not, that they face at best carelessness and at worst a complete refusal by police to properly investigate rape. . There is much PR about reporting but in reality children are treated as if they are supposed to be sexually available and keep their mouth shut.”

The claimant in the case said, “I think the police really believed me, but they really didn’t care.”

13 December 2012

For interviews contact:
Women Against Rape at 020 7482 2496, or war@womenagainstrape.net

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[1] Sapphire Detective Constable Ryan Coleman-Farrow was convicted of falsifying rape records and closing cases of at least 12 survivors of rape recently.

Statement from rural women in India on recent events in Delhi

Please help BWRAP and WAR to circulate the statement and article below:

The mass protests taking place all over India, and the international support for them, show how determined women are to end rape, and how we face similar violence and similar sexism by the authorities, wherever we are. For years our Indian sisters in Chhattisgarh have been organizing against rape and murder in the family but also by landlords, police and the military. But Dalit and Tribal women’s struggles have not been given prominence and support by the media or by most middle and upper class women in India or in the UK.

In our experience of dealing with rape and domestic violence here in the UK, the police are also the main obstacle to rape survivors getting justice. Only 6.5% of rapes in the UK end in conviction. We see daily cases dropped, as police have not gathered the evidence properly or the Crown Prosecution Service has decided it is not good enough to take to court. This is especially true for children, women of colour, women with disabilities and working class women generally. That’s why abusers and rapists like Savile and those in Rochdale and North Wales children homes and elsewhere were allowed to go for so long without being prosecuted, despite having been reported to the police and social services a number of times – vulnerable women and girls were treated as ‘plebs’ who exist to be available to sexual predators. We are even having to campaign with rape survivors imprisoned for reporting rape. Many cases of police rape have also come to light in the UK. We know these are only the tip of the iceberg.

Below are statements from a sister organisation based in 400 villages in Mahasamund, Chhattisgarh state; and comments from Arundhati Roy focusing on rape committed by police, army and others in authority, against women who have least. That these rapes are not prosecuted gives all violent men the go ahead – they know the authorities are on the side of the rapist and women are undefended.

We who are demanding justice today in India are demanding justice for all beginning with grassroots women everywhere including in the UK.

Statement from Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Samiti (Chhattisgarh Women’s Organisation), Chhattisgarh State, India – 6 January 2013

We condemn the gang rape and murder of the young woman in Delhi, and we demand the rapists get life imprisonment so other rapists are afraid and do not rape. In Chhattisgarh, Dalit and Tribal women and girls are being raped like the young woman in Delhi. Sometimes the media covers it but many times they don’t.

High level people who rape women, girls and boys should also be punished as many times they are not. This is happening in many countries. Our law is made by the government and it should be used against the high level people including if they are in government.

For many years in India there has been a grassroots movement of Dalit and Tribal women against rape. Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Samiti (NCMS) is part of this movement and has been working against rape since 1987 — in our area, 3,000 Dalit and Tribal women in NCMS have been fighting it. Women and girls are raped by high caste men, landlords and policemen. We help Dalit and Tribal women report rape and demand the police take statements, gather evidence and bring a prosecution of the rapist. Sometimes in the village area, up to 500 women go together to protest against a rapist at his house and shout against rape. Then the women go to the police station and demand the police file a report and punish the rapist. Last year government soldiers were raping women in the Tribal area, Bastar (Chhattisgarh) and in Kashmir but were not punished. We have campaigned to get bicycles for Tribal girls to go to school as school is far from their homes and this has also helped them not get harassed on the way.

In 2003 a police constable raped a 5 year old girl in Raipur. NCMS supported the girl and her family and helped the family get compensation from the government for the hospital costs for the young girl who had been severely injured. The policeman was prosecuted and imprisoned. This is one case of many where we help women and girls get justice against rape.

Naya Zamaana Aayega! A New Age is Coming!

* NCMS is an anti-racist organisation of Adivasi (Tribal) and Dalit women campaigning against bonded labour; rape, low and unequal pay and other discrimination. It brings together people from these two communities who are divided by landowners and other employers, police and government. NCMS is part of the Global Women’s Strike network.

Police, army rampantly use rape as weapon: Arundhati Roy

Published: Monday, Dec 31, 2012, 11:58 IST
Place: London | Agency: DNA

Reacting to the terrible news of the 23-year-old girl succumbing to injuries sustained while fighting off her rapists in a moving bus in the capital, Arundhati Roy warns that it is a sign of forebodings for women of all classes. About the massive outpouring of protests across the country, Roy said, “While we are seeing some very unexceptional reaction to an event which is hardly exceptional, though it’s a terrible thing to call a tragic event ‘exceptional’.

“However, the real problem is why is this crime creating such a lot of outrage is because it plays into the idea of the criminal poor, like the vegetable vendor, gym instructor or bus driver actually assaulting a middle class girl. Whereas when rape is used as a means of domination by upper castes, the army or the police it is not even punished,” said the feted author.

When asked if there was any chance that these huge protests are going to ring in some genuine change, Roy said, “I think it will lead to some new laws perhaps, an increased surveillance, but all of that will protect middle class women. But in cases of the army and the police as perpetrators, we are not looking for laws. What do you do when the police themselves burn down villages, gang-rape women. I have personally listened to so many testimonies of women to whom this has been done.”

Pointing to the contrast between the actual truth about women across the country and the image of modern India being portrayed by Bollywood and the hi-tech India, the author agreed that there are quite many a world competing here. “Feudal India has a huge history and legacy of disrespect and violence against women. Any accounts of Partition or what is done to Dalit women contains that but now there is sort of psychosis,” she said. See the YouTube video
While stating that the army and the police routinely use rape as a weapon against people in places like Chhattisgarh, Kashmir and Manipur after gaining impunity behind laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Roy said, “More dangerous is the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Earlier, at least the rich did what they with a fair amount of discretion, but now it’s all out there on television for conspicuous consumption and there is an anger and psychosis building up and women at the top, middle and the bottom are going to pay the price for it.”