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June 26th 2020

Civil Liberties

Greater Manchester Police agrees damages settlement with woman for failure to investigate rape allegation

Vicky Richardson

Vicky Richardson

Manager, Civil Liberties

Greater Manchester Police agrees damages settlement with woman for failure to investigate rape allegation

Greater Manchester Police has agreed to pay a five-figure damages settlement to a woman who was mocked in e-mails between officers after she alleged she was raped.

Greater Manchester Police has agreed to pay a five-figure damages settlement to a woman who was mocked in e-mails between officers after she alleged she was raped.

The unprofessional conduct, and errors made by officers, were only discovered four years later when the same man she alleged had attacked her in November 2011 was again arrested relating to another sexual assault.

During the 2015 investigation, force records were re-examined but a taped recording of the woman’s original interview could not be found. It was also discovered the first allegation had wrongly never been recorded as a crime.

This sparked an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IPOC), which went on to uncover e-mails between a Detective Sergeant and a female police officer mocking the woman and the legitimacy of her accusations.

Significantly, it was also discovered that both officers had misread and disregarded the conclusions of a forensics report relating to original complaint which had suggested further DNA testing was required.

Now, the woman has been awarded damages from the force having been represented by Hudgell Solicitors’ Civil Liberties Manager Vicky Richardson.

Mrs Richardson alleged the force’s actions amounted to a ‘clear breach of human rights, having failed to properly investigate her allegations.

Greater Manchester Police agreed not to defend the claim and offered the five-figure damages sum.

Email exchange between officers mocked woman’s account

The woman had made the allegations of rape in 2011 after attending a house party, at which she admits she had been drinking heavily.

In an email exchange with a female police officer, before forensic results had returned, the Detective Sergeant involved wrote ‘No crime submitted due to it all being bo**ocks’. The PC replied ‘Sure, forensics won’t even authorise it.”

Some months later, when the forensic report was received, both the Sergeant and police officer dismissed its content and concluding there was no supporting evidence, when in fact it actually suggested further DNA testing was required.

Again, they exchanged mocking and sarcastic emails.

“As thought, no trace of semen’ wrote the PC to the Sergeant on the force’s own email system, to which he responded ‘You’re joking!!! I thought this case was nailed on!! She had a vision of darkness, a heavy feeling and everything!!’

When later questioned about this as part of the IOPC investigation, the Detective Sergeant admitted he had not believed the woman, whilst the female officer said she felt it would have been hard to secure a conviction.

Both insisted their performance and professionalism wasn’t reflected in their email exchange.

Police knocked on woman’s door four years later – two weeks before her wedding

The woman said she had done her best to put what had happened behind her having seen her complaint come to nothing in 2011.

In July 2016 however, just two weeks before she was due to wed, police officers knocked on her door to inform her that the man she had accused had been subject to a new allegation of rape.

“I knew as soon as I saw the police standing at my door what had happened. I answered the door and said to them ‘he’s done it again hasn’t he?” she said

“They just looked at me and said we are so sorry, but then went on to tell me they couldn’t find my original interview recording and that I’d have to do it again. I had tried to put it behind me, but in an instant it was back casting a shadow over my life.

“It had been so hard to feel so dismissed and judged. When I gave my original statement I felt I wasn’t being believed. I heard nothing from the police either as they said it all depended on the forensics. I just assumed they’d boxed it off as nothing could be proved. I never felt supported, just ignored, and I had to try and get on with life.

“Because of them coming back to me in 2016, this brought the nightmare back to my life. I married knowing I’d have to relive what had happened to me, and that was certainly not something you want starting out in a marriage. It was really hard to try and cope with, and I didn’t cope.”

Despite giving evidence again, the case collapsed as the second alleged victim was too ill to give evidence in court. Her account of the original alleged attack in 2011 was considered too old to stand up in court and secure a conviction.

“He walked free again, all because the police failed to listen to me and take me seriously the first time,” added the woman.

“I think it is absolutely appalling. Greater Manchester Police have ruined my life twice. I started drinking heavily when it all came back as I just couldn’t cope and my marriage didn’t survive it.  My husband left me and when he did he said that I’d not been the same person from the day the police knocked on my door. How could I be?

“The fact that a female police officer could act like towards another woman who has turned to them for help is most shocking of all. Women need to know that the police will be there for them and will believe them when they are in this situation, not fear being judged or mocked. What message does that send out? It has totally killed any confidence or respect I have for the police.”

Police watchdog found officers’ actions amounted to misconduct as legal case launched

In total four officers, including another female detective and a male sergeant, were investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).  The police watchdog concluded that all four had cases to answer for misconduct relating to failing to properly investigate an allegation of rape and failing to record it as a crime.

Victoria Richardson, Manager of Civil Liberties at Hudgell Solicitors said: “This has been an appalling case and one of the worst examples we have come across of police officers not only failing in their job, but also failing to show professionalism and failing in basic levels of decency.

“Had the same man not faced further allegations four years after our client gave her account, this shocking police behaviour would not have been uncovered.

“Quite simply, because this lady could not provide a clear description of what happened due to drinking at a party, they completely dismissed her account. That mind-set of officers meant they were then blind to the details in a forensic report which actually called for further investigations.

“Policing standards state that officers must not make judgements about the credibility of victims if their state of mind is affected by alcohol, but sadly this appears a case where that happened from the very start.

“To actually mock this lady over emails, not class it as a crime and fail to retain her interview is an absolute disgrace. Police officers acting in this manner completely undermines public confidence in them, when they should be doing all they can to make it easier for victims of sexual attacks to come forward.

“We understand that two of the four officers involved left the force before IOPC investigations were launched and that the female police officer, who had since become a Detective Constable, resigned before her scheduled misconduct hearing.

“In essence, only the Detective Sergeant who was involved in the email exchange has been held fully to account, and given a written warning. That does not seem enough, even with the settlement which has been agreed.”

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