Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Breaking news: Woman gets 8 months for rape lie

Comment: In the news account below, a woman is sentenced to eight months imprisonment after her rape lie caused a man to be arrested and jailed for several hours. The false charges hung over the innocent man's head thereafter for a month. The harm to his reputation and anxiety that this must have caused -- not knowing if anyone would ever believe the truth and facing many years in prison for a vile crime he did not commit -- is likely incalculable. While an eight month sentence seems too lenient, it is a greater sentence than most such offenses are given. The most important thing is that the judge got it right when describing the harm: the principal harm of a false rape accusation is to the innocent man who is targeted. Too many judges think that the real harm of a false rape claim is to (1) the hypothetical, phantom, possible, could-be, even unborn rape victims who might be, possibly will be, may be dissuaded by such lies from coming forward, and (2) the police forces that expend resources in trying to solve a crime that never happened.

Here is the news account:

Jail for woman who cried rape

A woman who falsely cried rape has been jailed for eight months.

Mandy Whittle called police to what appeared to be a convincing crime scene, Bristol Crown Court heard on Tuesday.

Her alleged attacker was arrested and detained for some six hours but a police investigation found his alibi authentic and the alleged rape invented.

Whittle, aged 38, of Park Walk, Pill, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of public justice.
Imposing sentence Judge Martin Picton told her: "Two aspects of this case make it serious.

"Firstly, the case from the perspective of the person against whom you made a false allegation, who was in custody for five or six hours, suspected of one of the most awful offences and for a month did not know how it was going to resolve itself.

"Secondly, the damage to the general process of justice that false rape allegations represent."

Jonathan Stanniland, prosecuting, said Whittle called 999 and 45 minutes later police attended at her home and she gave a brief account of what happened.

Mr Stanniland told the court: "She said she heard banging and (the alleged offender) forced his way into her home.

"He tore her clothing and physically overwhelmed her. She passed out and she had been raped."

The court heard police found torn underwear, vomit in a washing up bowl and a fresh cut on Whittle.

Initially, Mr Stanniland said, she appeared to be a genuine complainant.

Later on she told police she wasn't able to pursue the allegation because of the strain it caused, and she never submitted herself for a medical examination.

Mr Stanniland said: "The alleged offender was arrested and interviewed and he was submitted to a medical. He was detained for five or six hours and he provided a full and convincing alibi.

"He said he had been to a pub, a bookshop and then returned to his accommodation. His 'defence' was that it was an utter fabrication from start to finish."

The court was told witnesses confirmed the man had gone where he said he had gone.

In due course his case closed and Whittle's case opened and, on the day of a planned trial, she admitted wrongdoing.

Catherine Spedding, defending, said her client had been a drug user who was "extremely upset" when her children were taken from her.

She said Whittle had a background of depression, for which she was medicated, and at the time of the allegation had taken too much medicine as well as some drink and was in a poor state of health.

Ms Spedding said: "She was not in a very good frame of mind at all and that is why she made the allegations she did. She regrets it. Eventually she accepted it was a false allegation and she avoided a trial."

Ms Spedding told Bristol Crown Court that the hope was for her client to detoxify from alcohol and reduce her methadone prescription.