Cyprus rape case teen's Northern Ireland lawyer to appeal conviction
The Belfast-born lawyer representing a British woman found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus is to appeal his client's conviction.
Lewis Power QC was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after a sentencing hearing, where a judge suspended the 19-year-old's prison term, saying he was giving her a "second chance".
The barrister said he hoped the case would be the "catalyst" for change on a global scale in relation to cases involving allegations of sexual assaults.
The student, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was ruled to have "wilfully indulged in public mischief" by claiming she was raped by a group of Israeli tourists while on holiday in Ayia Napa last July.
The tourists, aged between 15 and their early 20s, were allowed to return home after the woman signed a retraction statement 10 days later.
But she maintains she was raped after having consensual sex with one of the Israelis, and forced to change her account under pressure from Cypriot police.
The woman, from Derbyshire, was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for three years.
She had spent over a month in prison ahead of her trial. Yesterday she hugged her family as she left the courtroom in tears after being told by Judge Michalis Papathanasiou that she deserved a "second chance".
Mr Power works in London and here and has represented superstar boxer Tyson Fury, as well as leading legal teams in high-profile cases including the private prosecution against Prime Minister Boris Johnson in relation to claims made during the EU referendum.
He paid tribute to his client's courage, adding: "It has been deeply distressing, and not just the fact that she had spent a period of incarceration for four-and-a-half weeks, she hasn't been allowed home for the guts of nearly half-a-year.
"It has been really, really oppressive for her. We're just glad and relieved that she's finally going home."
Mr Power said there was relief that the judge did not impose immediate custody.
He added: "We went there in a state of trepidation because the judge behaved very harshly during the trial and it could have gone either way.
"It was on a knife-edge whether he was going to impose immediate imprisonment or show some degree of clemency and mercy and impose a suspended sentence.
"And thankfully, for the right reasons we say, he imposed a suspended sentence, because to have punished this girl any further would not have been in the interests of justice or in the public's interest."
Mr Power said the first stage in overturning the conviction will be lodging an appeal with the supreme court in Cyprus.
He is also prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
He added that the outpouring of public support - including supporters who gathered outside the court - means a great deal to his client.
"She's a very courageous and forthright young woman who has been through the most horrific ordeal, but it's not just her plight, but the plight of all women around the world," Mr Power said.
"And hopefully this case may be the catalyst, which demonstrates that jurisdictions cannot take lightly anymore allegations of sexual abuse and they have to deal with them properly, fairly and within the rule of law."