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22 May 2015, 10:33
Hampshire Police have said sorry to a rape victim falsely accused of lying and agreed to pay her £20,000 in compensation.
Hampshire Constabulary reached an agreement with the woman, named only as Laura, after she began proceedings against the force under the Human Rights Act.
Her mother said she was ``horrified'' by the way her then teenage daughter had been treated.
Two months after making her rape complaint in 2012, the woman was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice following forensic tests on her clothes not returning a result.
But the Crown Prosecution Service ordered it to be re-tested and her attacker was eventually jailed for five years in 2013.
It was not until six months after being arrested that the woman finally learned she was in the clear.
Chief Superintendent David Powell, head of Prevention and Neighbourhoods, said:
“Our initial assessment and handling of this case in 2012 was very poor and we are not proud of our initial response. We have already personally apologised to the victim and her mother; and I repeat here now that we are sorry for how we let her down.
“Once I became aware of what had happened, I immediately ordered a new investigation working very closely with the victim. By quickly taking these steps, we were able to provide the right investigative response with supportive and compassionate officers to obtain the evidence required which secured the prosecution and conviction of this offender. We are grateful that this victim gave us a second chance to put this investigation right and ensure this individual was punished. He is now serving a five year sentence and is on the sexual offenders register.
“We accept the way we initially treated this victim fell well below the standard we would expect. The initial officers involved did not treat this victim in a way that she or any other victim would deserve to be treated. We deeply regret this and we took action at the time by referring this case to our Professional Standards Department. As a result of this referral, one officer received a written warning for misconduct and ten officers have been given management action.
“We have already conducted a review of the failings of this case and one of the improvements we have made was implementing a specialist dedicated unit who received additional training in rape investigations and who work with vulnerable victims, providing support, advice and investigative expertise from the initial reporting right through to any criminal proceedings and beyond.
“We have changed our internal processes and any decision by an investigating officer to discontinue a rape investigation or release a suspect with no further action has to be agreed by an independent panel chaired by an Assistant Chief Constable. This demonstrates how seriously we have responded to this case and how seriously we take sexual offence investigations.
“I would like to reassure all victims of sexual assault that we do take you seriously. We do believe you, we appreciate how hard it is to come forward to report these offences, we do not judge you and we are committed to ensuring a professional and supportive response. We are doing everything to ensure we never have an initial response like this again.”
The force also confirmed that one officer had received a written warning for misconduct, while 10 had received management action.
Simon Hayes, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, commented:
"I am appalled by the way the victim and her family have been treated in this case and would like to express my heartfelt sympathy to them.
"It is entirely unacceptable for victims of crime not to be listened to and taken seriously. I would like to reassure the public that since I have been in post there have been significant changes to the way sexual assault cases are handled by the Constabulary. These changes in procedure should mean that the series of events that led to this particular victim being re-victimised by the police and not receiving appropriate justice, would not be permitted to happen again in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
"The public will also welcome the fact that, under new legislation introduced earlier this year, no officer involved in misconduct proceedings can resign or retire before a judgement is made on their conduct. This sends out a strong message to police officers that they are public servants who are expected to put victims at the heart of criminal justice - treating them with the utmost respect and dignity."