Civil Liberties

Greater Manchester Police agrees damages with women told ‘nothing will come of it’ after alleging she had been raped

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7 min read time

Greater Manchester Police has agreed to pay damages to a mother who says officers dismissed her fears that she’d been drugged and raped on a night out and told her ‘nothing would come of it’.

The woman, from Wigan, told police she feared she had been raped after waking fully undressed and ‘feeling sore’, in a strange house at 5am.

She had little recollection of the previous several hours, and believing she had been raped by the person whose house she was at, contacted the police after returning home.

She says two officers came out but were dismissive of her situation and even suggested she and her husband go to the man she feared had raped her to ‘set the record straight.’

She says officers left after around 20 minutes without taking a statement or arranging for any physical tests to be carried out.

“I tried to explain what had happened as best I could as I still couldn’t make sense of what was going on and I was still feeling dizzy even when officers arrived. I told them I thought I had been drugged and raped,” said the woman, who was 29 at the time.

“The woman officer took me into a room on my own and advised me that reporting a rape meant ‘it would be over mine and my family’s heads for quite a while,’ that it ‘would take a year to resolve’, and that if it went to court ‘nothing would come of it.’

“Then we went back in the other room and in front of everyone she said to my husband ‘I recommend you go to him (the alleged attacker) and see if you can set the record straight.

“I felt like I had been treated disgustingly, I was just a number not a person.  My sexual violence support advisor says it’s the worst case she has ever dealt with. I have felt like giving up, it’s affected not just me but the whole family.”

Damages agreed following claim that officers ‘violated woman’s human rights’

An investigation was eventually carried out after the woman, a mother of three, rang the police again later that day when she was able to think more clearly. She insisted the matter be properly investigated. Specialist officers arrived at just before midnight and took her to hospital.

She says that during an 11-hour wait she was advised by police not to eat, drink, wash, go to the toilet or change her clothing. She was eventually examined and gave a statement the following day, but says Greater Manchester Police have since given little update on the progress of the case, other than to say it is ‘still continuing’.

Now, Greater Manchester Police has agreed to pay her damages of £8,000 following a legal claim, led by Hudgell Solicitors, in relation to how she was initially treated by officers who first visited her in July 2019.

Associate Solicitor Nicola Bailey Gibbs, part of the Civil Liberties and Criminal Injuries team at Hudgell Solicitors, described the approach of officers as ‘shocking’.

As part of the case, she alleged Greater Manchester Police had violated the woman’s human rights by failing to conduct a sufficient investigation, stating that officers should have known that delays in investigating claims would reduce the chances of proceeding to a prosecution.

She said: “My client was treated in a wholly inappropriate manner, and it was a shocking error of judgement by trained police officers who completely failed in their duty of care for somebody who was in a distressed state and informing them that she believed she may have been drugged and raped.

“She was upset, disorientated and in pain and the officers failed to handle this situation with any kind of sensitivity, effectively suggesting it would be a waste of my client’s, and the police’s time, to carry out any significant investigation.

“They did not offer any medical assistance, discuss forensic examinations or make any mention of possible arrest. My client was not given an early evidence kit, nor did they take any clothing or preserve any evidence at that stage. She was also given no details of what might happen next.

“The officer believed the best way forward would be to attend the male’s property and have a mutual chat. In what scenario would it ever be acceptable to say to a potential victim, who is reporting a suspected rape, that they should go back to the property where the alleged attack had happened and discuss it with the individual they are reporting?”

Third settlement relating to concerns over police investigations into sexual assault and rape

Mrs Bailey-Gibbs said this was the third case in the past two years in which Greater Manchester Police has paid damages to clients of Hudgell Solicitors due to concerns over how allegations of sexual assaults on women had been investigated.

In 2020, a five-figure damages settlement was paid to a woman who was mocked in e-mails between officers after she alleged she was raped. In that case it was also discovered that officers had misread and disregarded the conclusions of a forensics report.

Earlier this year the same force also agreed compensation with a homeless woman after it was alleged the force had failed to properly investigate an assault on her, as she awoke in her tent to find a stranger touching her while he carried out a sexual act on himself.

As part of that case, it was alleged that had the police undertaken a proportionate investigation they would have established a link to four other alleged sexual assaults on other homeless women in the Manchester area.

Mrs Bailey-Gibbs added: “This is a worrying pattern. We know from the many victims of sexual assault we support that finding the courage to speak out and make allegations is so, so difficult. Being treated in this way will only make more people reluctant to come forward and would of course sadly make the world a more dangerous place for women.

“We understand the matter has been subject to an internal investigation, and our client would be very interested to know what the result of that was with regards the officers involved.

“It has been a privilege to represent my client and to try to get answers from Greater Manchester Police on why and how she was treated so badly. It is to be hoped other women in the area have not had a similar experience.”

Woman left ‘angry, upset and frustrated’

Recalling the night out, in which she was part of a small group which went into Atherton town centre, the woman says she believes her drink was spiked in a bar

“I don’t remember very much but I have been told by the police that a member of staff came over to ask me how I was as I seemed very disorientated,” she recalled.

“It was such a strange feeling the next morning, almost an out of body experience. I felt abnormal and couldn’t control my own body and when I went to the toilet, I knew something wasn’t right, I was so sore.

“I remember waking and dressing myself, and looking for my belongings, staying silent and wondering where I was and what had happened to me.

“I do feel angry, upset and frustrated, I think to myself is this happening to other women, other people? I have felt like giving up, but I must try to be strong not just for me but for my family. I would like it resolved so I can move on.

“My independent sexual violence adviser has always stayed in contact but not the police. I don’t hear from one year to another. I’m not sure this award will make a difference. There’s been no apology from Greater Manchester Police, I don’t expect there ever will be now.”

Greater Manchester Police agreed an £8,000 damages settlement out of court having made no admissions to the claims made.

Yesterday, following publication of the latest inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Greater Manchester Police was found to be falling short of expected standards and was rated inadequate in three areas, including investigating crime and how it responds to the public.

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