False rape accusations in Britain


A Labour peer yesterday named a "serial and repeated liar" whose false allegations resulted in an innocent man being jailed for a sex attack. Lord Campbell-Savours used parliamentary privilege to name the woman during a debate in the House of Lords on rape legislation. He suggested that women who make false allegations of rape should be named and prosecuted for perjury. It is believed to be the first time that the identity of a woman who claims that she has been the victim of a sexual offence has been revealed in Parliament. Women's rights groups said that they feared that the naming of the woman would further deter rape victims from reporting their ordeal.

It is a criminal offence to name anyone who complains to police that they have been the victim of a sexual offence, even if the alleged attacker is found not guilty in court. But Lord Campbell-Savours is protected from legal action for comments made in the House of Lords. Speaking in the Lords he said: "Is not the inevitable consequence of the workings of the law as currently framed that we will carry on imprisoning innocent people such as Warren Blackwell, who was falsely accused by a serial and repeated liar, (the woman's name), who has a history of making false accusations and having multiple identities? "As a result of her accusations, he spent three and a half years in prison following a shabby and inadequate police investigation and was exonerated only when the Criminal Cases Review Commission inquiry cleared him and traced her history.

"Should not mature accusers who perjure themselves in rape trials be named and prosecuted for perjury?" The official record of the Houses of Parliament, Hansard, included the woman's name in its report because it believed it was covered by parliamentary privilege. However, the Press Association later removed the woman's identity from its report of the debate after seeking legal advice, which said that she was entitled, by statute, to lifelong anonymity. Lord Cambell-Savours said last night that he was unable to comment further on the issue because he would not be covered by privilege outside Parliament.

Mr Blackwell, 36, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, spent more than three years in jail for a sex attack before his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal last month after fresh evidence suggested that his alleged victim was a liar. The Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates possible miscarriages of justice, discovered that the alleged victim had made similar accusations. The Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Blackwell's conviction was unsafe in the light of the new evidence that the complainant had made "strikingly similar allegations" about other sex attacks, had an ability to lie and a possible propensity to self-harm.

Lord Campbell-Savours' comments came after intense debate about the right to anonymity for victims of sexual offenders and those accused but not convicted. Anonymity is granted automatically to the accuser in rape cases, under the Sexual Offences Act 1976. The woman who accused Mr Blackwell can be identified only when she waives her right to anonymity or is convicted of attempting to pervert the cause of justice, proving that the sexual assault never took place.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Home Office Minister, told the Lords: "It is not inevitable that people will be falsely accused. One of the tragedies in relation to rape allegations is that very few of those who suffer this most dreadful crime have the courage to come forward at all." Ruth Hall, of Women Against Rape, said: "Women are being targeted by the criminal justice system for bringing allegations of rape. It is a new development that we have seen over the past few weeks. "There have been a number of women prosecuted for perverting the course of justice or having something added to their Criminal Records Bureau records because they have made allegations of rape. "The system is institutionally sexist. We don't believe that any assumption can be made that a woman has not been telling a truth."

At present 5.6 per cent of rape cases result in a conviction. The Government and lawyers fear that any attempt to remove anonymity would reduce significantly the number of women coming forward and prepared to go to court



With just one in twenty cases of rape leading to a conviction there have been growing demands for changes to the law to make it easier bring prosecutions. However, there have also been growing numbers of cases where men have had their rape convictions overturned and prosecutions of women who have made up allegations. Last month a teenager was jailed after four men were held in police cells for 36 hours after she accused them of rape. Cinzia Sannino, then 17, only admitted her lies when police showed her footage on a mobile telephone of her performing naked lap- dancing for the men after returning home with them from a Cardiff club. The case led a spokesman for the False Allegations Support Organisation to comment: "Too many people jump on the bandwagon, aware that they can get compensation for false allegations."

Two weeks later a woman who falsely cried rape against her former husband was also convicted of perverting the course of justice. Sally Henderson, 40, a mother of two, described by the prosecution as a "wicked liar", claimed that Richard Cooke, 39, had repeatedly raped her during their year-long marriage. However, police discovered that her claims were almost identical to false allegations she had made five years earlier against a previous boyfriend, Gloucester Crown Court heard. Lifting an order preventing her identification, Recorder David Lane, QC, said: "The public has a right to know the identity of a person who makes such allegations and who seeks to use the system of justice for her own, unscrupulous ends."

A month earlier an obsessed stalker who accused her psychiatrist of rape was convicted of harassment, threats to kill and perverting justice. Maria Marchese, 45, rummaged through Jan Falkowski's dustbin for a used condom to clinch DNA evidence. The case against the consultant, of Limehouse, East London, was dropped - but his relationship with his fiancee collapsed.

There have been growing calls for men accused of rape to be granted anonymity until they are convicted. The Liberal Democrats voted last month to grant anonymity to anyone accused of rape until conviction.



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