Thursday, 30 October 2008

Rub of the green

A man who spent two years in jail before being cleared of rape has had his attempt to claim damages from his accuser denied at the High Court.  Mr Hunt, a former senior traffic warden, had his conviction for the alleged 1995 offence overturned at the Court of Appeal in December 2005, when judges heard evidence from two new witnesses. The conviction was also quashed on the basis of inadequate direction to the jury.

Mr Hunt argued that the woman (AB) became the prosecutor by giving a witness statement to police in 2002 and by agreeing to give evidence against him - although the charge was brought by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). AB's counsel, Anthony Metzer, said there was a "wealth of evidence" showing her initial reluctance to report the incident, let alone prosecute Mr Hunt. The chain of events leading to the prosecution of Mr Hunt was started by a friend of AB, who she had spoken to in confidence.

Until a recent overhaul of the laws relating to rape, it is unlikely that the charges would have been brought. One of the essentials in evaluating the victim's account was that she had complained at the very first opportunity to do so. Lack of a fresh complaint would most likely bar any police action.

That was all changed when it was considered that the laws of evidence and procedure militated against rape convictions and led many women not to complain at all. Now it would seem the pendulem has swung too far in the opposite direction.

Rape is a dreadful crime; it has a mental effect far in excess of almost any other offence. The fact that this man spent time in prison and was, it seems, lucky that the new witnesses came forward after such a long delay, illustrates that it can have as dreadful an effect upon the man where justice goes wrong. To be denied some relief only adds to the situation.

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