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July 29th 2021

Claims Against Police

Kent Police agrees damages for woman who had to ‘lead investigation herself’ after father fled country when accused of rape

Adam Biglin

Adam Biglin

Solicitor, Civil Liberties

Kent Police agrees damages for woman who had to ‘lead investigation herself’ after father fled country when accused of rape

Kent Police has agreed a five-figure damages settlement with a woman who was left to ‘lead the investigation herself’ when her father fled the country after she reported he had raped her.

Kent Police has agreed a five-figure damages settlement with a woman who was left to ‘lead the investigation herself’ when her father fled the country after she reported he had raped her.

The woman was aged just 19 when she made the allegations back in 1999, that her father had sexually abused her between the ages of 13 and 16.

However, having been charged and granted bail, the man subsequently fled to South Africa, never returning to the UK to face the courts.

Kent Police never took steps to have him extradited, and such was the woman’s frustration with the lack of progress made, she agreed to travel to South Africa herself when asked to do so by officers, providing the force with information as to his whereabouts.

Despite this, an internal Kent Police complaint investigation – which said officers had expected the woman to ‘do all the work’ herself in locating him – found no attempts were made to corroborate the information she provided, or to secure information from South African authorities, which had offered to assist.

The woman, who is now 41, says she endured years of chasing up officers at Kent Police for progress without success.

Such were her frustrations that finally in 2018 she said she no longer wanted to pursue the case against her father, having “lost her fight”.

Instead, she instructed our expert civil liberties lawyers at Hudgell Solicitors to investigate the force as part of a claim against the police.

As part of her actions against the police claim for damages it was alleged Kent Police had failed to meet its ‘distinct responsibilities to investigate’, not followed expected lines of enquiry to keep the case ‘live’ and displayed a ‘lack of empathy’ in its communications with the woman.

This referred to the force’s failure to keep her updated in the case over many years, and an occasion in which an officer described potentially supporting medical evidence from her as ‘good stuff’.

In the action against the police case, it was also alleged the force had breached the woman’s human rights due to ‘systematic failings’ in its handling of the case.

Now, 21 years after finding the courage to make her allegations, our client says she has finally been given “some form of closure”.

This is after legal representatives acting on behalf of Kent Police offered a five-figure damages settlement in police compensation, despite not making any specific admissions to failings.

‘The police have done more damage to me than my father who raped me’

The woman, herself now a volunteer with a charity which supports victims, said: “This has taken over my life so, despite not getting the result I wanted as my father has never faced prosecution, I am glad it has been brought to a conclusion.

“I never wanted compensation, but in many ways I lost my will to continue fighting for the police to do the right thing.

“I thought police forces were there to support victims, but now I feel so naïve. They had all they needed in terms of evidence and details of his location but did nothing. I feel the police have done more damage to me now than my father did. They have raped me of my dignity and self-worth over two decades.

“The last straw was when they asked for my medical records, years after the investigation had repeatedly stalled, and an officer described them as ‘good stuff’ when talking about the most harrowing moments of my life. That just about said it all about their attitude.

“When they offered compensation out of court I didn’t really want to accept, as ideally I wanted to go to court and highlight their failings in front of a judge. I’d run out of fight though and couldn’t go on. I needed this to end in some way for me to get my life back, for my own mental health.

“I know they’ve not made any admissions over failings, and I haven’t had an apology for the way they have treated me as a victim, but in my mind people don’t pay compensation if they don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong. It is perhaps as close to an apology as I can get, and in some way an acknowledgement of the damage they have caused me.

“It’s a small victory after all this time which now allows me to sleep at night and move on. After more than two decades of this being a shadow over my life, I needed that to happen.

“It hurts to have been treated in this way. Over the years, given all that has happened, I have felt that there has been nobody out there to help me.

“I finally got that help from my legal team at Hudgell Solicitors, and they have helped me finally secure some closure and dignity. I feel I can now start to get my life back.”

Action against the police – case was ‘woefully handled at every stage’

Solicitor Adam Biglin, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented the woman in the action against the police case and said it had been “woefully handled at every stage and every level”.

He said: “This has been a matter which has hung over our client’s life for more than two decades, and will continue to do so given the failure to see her father face charges for what she alleged he did to her when she was just a child.

“There was a constant failure to drive this case and the police even pushed a crucial part of the investigation onto our client herself as she felt the need to travel to South Africa in an attempt to locate her father.

“This was highly unacceptable and in our view was a breach of human rights laws in that the police left her to investigate something they should have been investigating themselves.

“The impact of not being helped and supported by the police has been almost as difficult to handle for her. She has been made to feel that police officers simply couldn’t be bothered to meet their obligations to investigate fully because it became too much work for them once he’d fled to South Africa.

“There was a clear failure in this case in the force not pursuing international cooperation, which it was offered. A police contact at the embassy was obtained and the South African High Commission were willing to assist if certain information was provided.

“Despite this willingness to assist nothing was done by Kent Police, even after the complainant gave information with regards to the accused’s whereabouts.

“The failure to engage with our client and keep her updated led to her becoming completely disengaged with the investigation, compounded by wholly inappropriate communication, including insensitive and offensive emails, one of which referred to her medical records as ‘good stuff’, which was clearly inappropriate given the nature of allegations and investigation.

“There was a lack of empathy and no apparent understanding of the effects of the whole matter on our client. This was acknowledged in the internal complaints investigation.

“We are pleased to have been able to secure damages for what we feel was a woefully handled investigation at every stage and every level, although of course we recognise that our client has never had the justice of seeing her father face the charges which were brought against him before he fled.”

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