Saturday, November 20, 2010

Woman makes eight false rape claims, but serves no jail time

The British government recently killed an extremely modest plan to grant anonymity to presumptively innocent men accused of rape until they are charged.  Not convicted, just charged.  Even that insignificant acknowledgement that false rape claims are often devastating to their victims was entirely too much for angry women's groups more interested in retributive gender justice that equity. They pressured politicians to put the kibosh on the plan, arguing, among other things, that it would hinder police investigations of serial rapists.  That argument, like the rest, was grotesquely dishonest.

We have made the point on this blog that, arguably, men accused of rape and similar crimes have greater need of anonymity, unless and until convicted, than their accusers.  Today, the Northern Echo, a paper serving the North-East of England, ran a chilling and surreal story that provides evidence of that incontrovertible fact.  It also provides evidence that the policy of granting anonymity for alleged victims of rape needs to be rethought.

A woman named Jayne Stuart has made eight false rape claims -- that's not a typo: eight -- and apparently has never served a day behind bars.  (Full story below.)  Four of the men have been acquitted in trials the past two years.  Each of her victims have suffered a terrible stigma.  After her latest false claim, "Judge Peter Bowers said it was unfortunate that there was no anonymity for the men."

If Ms. Stuart's case were an anomaly, it would not be so alarming. Sadly, it is not. One need not search out ancient history to find ample evidence that serial false rape accusers are more common than the persons who dominate the public discourse about rape would care to admit. Remember -- most false rape claims are never reported in any newspaper. The ones we report on this blog are the tip of the iceberg.

Earlier this year we reported on serial false accuser Emily Riker. Ms. Riker has made four false rape claims, three in 2010 alone.

Then there was the four-time serial false accuser who targeted British men vacationing on the island of Kos. British newspapers couldn't even bring themselves to print her name. 

Then there was the serial false accuser who tried to destroy a man for not giving her a beer.

Remember Heather Brenner?  She falsely accused a number of men of rape, including her husband.

And there was the celebrated case of  David Jansen, who was arrested after a pizza deliveryman stopped by his remote rented cabin in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains and saw a woman tied up on the couch mouthing, "Call 911."  But Jansen claimed all along that the woman was his lover and that she was into bondage.  His lawyers provided stacks of evidence that the two had been in a relationship for some time. After news of the arrest hit the media, the woman's history of filing false rape claims surfaced and her mother was interviewed saying that her daughter was a notorious liar.  The serial false accuser was not arrested and was not charged (nor has she ever served a day in prison for any of her false claims); her reputation is largely preserved.

Then there was Michaela Britton, who made a wide variety of bizarre allegations, including rape, against a number of individuals.

And we could go on and on and on. The stories reveal that the victims of these false accusers often suffered tremendous reputational and other harm.  Keeping them anonymous until conviction would have alleviated much of that harm.  Moreover, removing anonymity for women who cry rape could have also prevented much of the harm.  Men would know to stay away from women who are publicized false rape accusers.

Why is nothing -- and I mean absolutely nothing -- done to protect the victims of false rape accusers, much less serial false rape accusers?  And why will this story elicit not sympathy for the men and their families but angry eye rolling from the people who dominate the public discourse about rape?

Here is the latest story:

Woman’s eight false rape claims

A WOMAN who reported eight false rapes to the police has walked free from court.

Rod Hunt, prosecuting, said Jayne Stuart, 37, withdrew the latest claim after she realised the effect on the men she accused after having consensual sex with them.

Judge Peter Bowers said it was unfortunate that there was no anonymity for the men, four of whom were acquitted after trials in the past two years.

Mr. Hunt told Teesside Crown Court yesterday that Stuart, who is single, was not wicked, but had mental health difficulties that led to her making the accusations.

One man from Darlington was cleared of rape, but convicted of actual bodily harm assault with a sex toy.

The family of her latest victim was in court when she pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of public justice between April 24 and May 16 with a false allegation of rape to police.

Stuart, of Gormier Close, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, was given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, with supervision.

Mr Hunt said: “Each of the men involved have suffered a terrible stigma.

It seems to be a fallback position on her behaviour.

She makes a complaint and it has to be investigated, but she has withdrawn her most recent complaint.

“The Crown concede in her case that she is a person labouring under mental health difficulties, and that this is not the usual case where someone is out-and-out wicked.

“It may be, now that she is able to see the harm she is doing to others, that she may be able to stand on her own two feet.”

Bryan Russell, in mitigation, said Stuart feared jail.

He said she had worked in charity shops in the past, and was willing to do so again as a community punishment.

Judge Bowers told her: “You deserve a prison sentence and usually I would send somebody to prison for this.

“The danger is that if you had a genuine, a real complaint in the future, the police might not be very inclined to take you seriously.

“You will have to be very careful with whom you take up with in the future.”