Woman awarded £15,000 for failings in police rape investigation

Then chief constable Sir Hugh Orde wrote to the woman to apologise for the police handling of her rape case
Then chief constable Sir Hugh Orde wrote to the woman to apologise for the police handling of her rape case
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A vulnerable alleged rape victim is to be awarded £15,000 for failings in the police investigation into her complaint, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice McAlinden held that the Nothern Ireland woman’s human rights were breached by the operational and systemic shortcomings identified.

He said: “I have no hesitation in concluding that an award of damages in this case is necessary to afford the plaintiff just satisfaction.”

The woman, who is in her 30s and has Asperger’s syndrome, reported being raped by a man during a night out in June 2007.

A decision was subsequently taken not to prosecute the alleged assailant, who maintained that any activity was consensual.

But in the first lawsuit of its kind in Northern Ireland, the woman sued the PSNI over its handling of the investigation.

Referred to as C, she claimed the flawed probe violated her entitlement to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Her lawyers argued that she went on to suffer distress, psychiatric injuries, depression, psychotic symptoms and an eating disorder.

The court heard police only interviewed C six months after the date of the alleged attack.

Following the no-prosecution decision, her family lodged a complaint with the police ombudsman.

In 2009 the watchdog recommended at least two police officers be subjected to disciplinary sanctions over the handling of the case.

The chief constable at the time, Sir Hugh Orde, wrote to the woman’s family stating that she had suffered an “horrendous attack”.

His 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.”

Since then new guidelines have been produced and a specialist rape crime unit introduced.

Ruling on the action, Mr Justice McAlinden found the woman had been the victim of a serious sexual assault where no consent was given.

He identified a delay in conducting an achieving best evidence interview, adding that a number of the ombudsman’s criticisms of the police investigation were justified.

“The operational failings in this case cannot be described as minor or insignificant. These failings occurred against a background of systemic shortcomings.

“I consider that the appropriate award of damages in this case is £15,000.”