Ben Lowry: Cyprus gang rape case is reminder that fake claims can happen and the need for jurors to be aware of that possibility

An Israeli teenager is embraced by relatives after being released by police in Paralimni, Cyprus, Sunday, July 28, 2019. He was one of seven Israeli teenagers who were detained as suspects in the alleged rape of a 19-year-old British woman. She was arrested and faced a public nuisance charge. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
An Israeli teenager is embraced by relatives after being released by police in Paralimni, Cyprus, Sunday, July 28, 2019. He was one of seven Israeli teenagers who were detained as suspects in the alleged rape of a 19-year-old British woman. She was arrested and faced a public nuisance charge. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
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Last week in Cyprus a gang rape, which made global headlines, was then said not to have happened.

Twelve Israeli men had been arrested after the claims, which caused international interest and alarm, given the large number of attackers.

The men were released and the British woman behind the claims was then arrested on suspicion of inventing the story.

The case is ongoing so we do not yet know exactly what happened. The law will take its course.

Yet the Gillen review here, which received almost entirely uncritical media coverage outside of this small newspaper, despite the fact that it suggests radical reforms in the handling of sex trials, proposes that jurors be instructed on rape ‘myths’, one of which is that fake claims of sex assault are common.

No doubt it is correct to say that false claims are in fact rare (and I trust that the proposal is being made on the basis of solid, irrefutable evidence that that is so).

But no wonder that some experienced criminal lawyers are shocked by such advice being given to jurors, when it equivalent warnings are not given in non sex cases.

While such claims might be rare, they certainly do happen.

There have been a number of deeply disturbing cases in Great Britain in which a defendant seemed likely to be convicted, until evidence emerged which disproved claims.

Also, the liar and fantasist Carl Beech (‘Nick’), who made up rubbish about famous men and was believed by foolish and naive people in authority, got damages for assaults that never happened.

The Daily Mail, which was one of the few outlets to question ‘Nick’s’ claims, reports that there are similar cases in which liars got damages for assaults that never happened, yet their accusers were jailed.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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