Alleged rape victim 'failed by PSNI'
A vulnerable alleged rape victim was subjected to degrading treatment by a flawed police investigation, the High Court heard yesterday.
Counsel for the Northern Ireland woman, who has Asperger syndrome, claimed failings in the PSNI probe were so serious that former chief constable Sir Hugh Orde apologised in writing to her family.
She is now suing the force for breach of her human rights.
The woman, referred to only as C, reported that she had been raped by a man during a night out in June 2007.
But the court heard it took another six months to interview her.
Following a decision not to prosecute the alleged perpetrator, C's family lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman.
In 2009 the watchdog recommended disciplinary sanctions against four police officers over the handling of the case.
According to C's lawyers, the Ombudsman concluded that the PSNI probe was neither full nor proper, and did not meet the basic principles of investigation. He also found:
- Officers initially visited the location of the suspected sex attack, but did not seize any possible CCTV footage or conduct house to house inquiries for further witnesses;
- Although C's mother believed her diary may contain information relevant to the alleged rape, no attempt was made to retrieve the book;
- Police failed to follow up claims that C may have received text messages asking her not to proceed with her allegations; and
- No initial statements were taken from those who were with the woman on the night in question, or from anyone in the taxi firm she used to get home.
A number of recommendations for improvements in how police deal with of rape complaints were made.
Since then, new guidelines have been produced and a specialist rape crime unit introduced.
Mr Justice McAlinden was told Sir Hugh wrote to the woman's family stating that she had suffered an "horrendous attack". The letter went on to say: "In this case I believe it is only right that I offer an apology, not only to C, but also to the wider family for any distress which may have been caused."
Brendan Kelly QC, for the plaintiff, contended the correspondence related to the shortfalls identified by the Ombudsman.
"There are failings which fall into the category of significant and serious in the investigation into C's case," he submitted.
"The plaintiff's case is that the police service failed to conduct an effective investigation, and that the nature and extent of the failings identified were such as to amount to a breach of C's Article 3 right not to be subjected to degrading treatment by a public authority."
The case continues.