Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Relaxed British police force compensates woman for failure to investigate sex attack

Compensation is all very well but what about catching the criminal? Obviously not a priority

A rape victim has received compensation from a police force that she sued for failing to investigate the attack on her. In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, Cambridgeshire Constabulary paid a £3,500 out-of-court settlement to the woman after she began a legal claim alleging that the force had breached the Human Rights Act by not investigating the assault on her, which occurred in October 2005.

Two months after reporting the case, the woman called police and discovered that the case papers were still on a sergeant’s desk. No investigation had begun and the incident had not been recorded as a crime. By then, vital leads, including closed-circuit television footage of the assailant forcing his victim to withdraw money from a bank machine, had been lost.

The victim, a 38-year-old woman who suffers from bipolar disorder, reported the incident to police from a hospital where she was being treated. She believes that her mental health problems contributed to the way police handled the case.

The force settled the matter, without admitting liability. It said that two officers involved in the case had been disciplined. A police spokesman said: “A letter was issued which apologised for any distress or anxiety caused and we can confirm that £3,500 was paid in an out-of-court settlement. “The record-keeping of one officer was found to be wanting and another officer was found to have failed to investigate a matter expeditiously.”

The victim said that she had been made to feel as if she were “a woman of no importance”. She told the BBC: “Like the elderly in old people’s homes, the mentally ill can be trodden on. The police officers felt they could act with impunity. They were dealing with a woman who wouldn’t fight back. It wasn’t forgotten, it was just neglected.”

She added: “I didn’t start this action for money — it was about justice. I saw myself as a law-abiding citizen. I had a comfortable illusion that I would be protected by the State and that clearly isn’t the case. I now have a completely different perspective and I don’t feel the police are a protective force.”

Figures released by the Fawcett Society this year put the rape conviction rate in Cambridgeshire among the country’s lowest: 3.1 per cent of reported cases resulted in convictions. The national average was 7 per cent.

Original report here

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