A follow-up to this story. This is a gravely unjust sentence for a young woman who destroyed a young man's life. A police officer involved summed up the reality of false rape claims, which he called "life-changing," with three sentences that judges would do well to study: "Rape is a heinous offence and perpetrators should be brought to justice with the full weight of the justice system. However false allegations of rape are equally heinous. It is not only devastating to the victim but severely damages the credibility of women who are genuine victims of sex offences."
Woman who cried rape after sex in public toilet walks free from court
A 21-year-old woman who made a false accusation of rape in a bid to claim thousands of pounds in compensation escaped a jail term today.
Sarah-Jane Hilliard claimed Grant Bowers, 19, attacked her following a night out.
Just over a week after making the allegations in May last year, she contacted the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, hoping to be awarded up to £7,500.
A jury found her guilty of perverting the course of justice and she was today given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.
Sentencing her at Basildon Crown Court in Essex, Judge Christopher Mitchell said: 'The fact is that false allegations of rape have a terrible knock-on effect.
'When women who have actually been raped make complaints there is always the background of people like you who have made false allegations and that's why it's considered so serious.'
During the trial, the jury heard how Hilliard told police she met Mr Bowers at Liquid nightclub in Basildon on July 26, 2008.
She claimed he shared a taxi with her and a friend, before stopping at Basildon railway station so she could visit the toilet.
Hilliard told police she locked herself in a cubicle door and that the next thing she remembered was waking up with her underwear and trousers around her ankles.
She told officers that Mr Bowers had sent her a text message the next day saying they had 'gone all the way', and it was then she realised she had been raped.
Mr Bowers was arrested two days later at his father's house and taken to a police station, where he was held for four hours in a cell before being interviewed by detectives for a further two hours. He had DNA swabs taken, as well as fingerprints and mug shots.
The student, from Basildon, had to wait a week before police told him he wouldn't be charged.
During the trial, prosecutor Andrew Jackson read extracts from Mr Bower's victim impact statement, which said the teenager sat crying in police custody fearing he was going to prison.
He told the court: 'This incident has changed him. He speaks of his lack of confidence approaching young women, not trusting them and having trouble sleeping.
'He was physically sick through worry, constantly teary and feeling like he wanted to cry.'
Giving evidence during the trial, Mr Bowers told the court how he had met Hilliard at a nightclub and they the walked to the railway station.
He said once they reached the station toilets, she dragged him into a cubicle and had sex with him. She told Mr Bowers he 'better be there for the baby' if she fell pregnant.
But police were unable to find CCTV of the pair in Liquid nightclub, as Hilliard had claimed. Her friend told police she had lied and that they had actually been in the nearby Colors club.
Detectives then trawled through CCTV from that nightspot and found footage of Hilliard and Mr Bowers kissing and holding hands before leaving.
As soon as they saw the footage, officers contacted Mr Bowers and told him he would not be charged and instead they arrested Hilliard for perverting the course of justice.
A charge of wasting police time was dropped after she was found guilty of the more serious crime.
Jacqueline Carey, mitigating for Hilliard, said her client had since been assaulted by two men on her way to work, suffering scratches, and had the word 'bitch' scratched onto her car.
Miss Carey said she had also suffered 'extremely unpleasant' comments on Facebook following her conviction last August, saying: 'One wished Miss Hilliard had been raped then she would understand what rape victims went through.'
Describing her client as 'hard working', she added that she had a number of 'deeply personal issues'.
'Since her conviction, her relationship with her partner has ceased and a number of friends, due to the publicity, are no longer friends with her.'
Hilliard, from Basilson, was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and ordered to pay £2,000 in costs.
Judge Mitchell acknowledged that Hilliard had problems: 'I have come to the conclusion that the doctor is right in saying you ought not to go to prison.'
But he warned: 'This case is no precedent at all for future cases of women who make up false allegations of rape.
'You alleged that you had been raped and as a consequence of that allegation, a young man was arrested, held in custody for four hours, interviewed and subsequently bailed.
'But for six or seven days thereafter he had the concern, the worry, the fear that he was going to be charged with rape when he knew perfectly well that you had consented to the intercourse and that you, on his account, had frankly initiated it.'
Speaking outside court, Mr Bowers said he had been subjected to verbal abuse and had his house attacked as a result of the fake claims.
He said: 'The last 11 months have been horrendous. I've lost all my self-confidence and I can't speak to women any more.
'I don't know why she did it but her lies have ruined my life.'
His father, Tony Bowers, said he was 'dumbfounded' by the sentence and that his son had had to move out of Basildon.
He said: 'I'm disappointed because my son was facing up to ten years in prison for rape on the strength of her lies.
'She has been found guilty of making false allegations and the least I expected was for her to have been given a prison sentence.
'My son has lost his freedom as a result of this. He cannot come and visit his parents unless it's under the cover of darkness, he's lost his flat and we cannot even know where he is living for his own protection.
'He is the victim and he has lost his freedom yet she has still got hers.
'I think she's a very sad girl who needs help. She could have got the professional help she so desperately needs during a stretch behind bars.'
Detective Sergeant Steve Simmons from British Transport Police said: 'It is such a nasty, life-changing allegation against a young man.
'Rape is a heinous offence and perpetrators should be brought to justice with the full weight of the justice system.
'However false allegations of rape are equally heinous. It is not only devastating to the victim but severely damages the credibility of women who are genuine victims of sex offences.'