Monday, June 25, 2012

Justice, Phuket style: Stevie Bamford might not serve time for false rape claim

The photo to the left shows Stevie Bamford, 21. She's the Australian woman who was vacationing in Thailand with her boyfriend when she told police on June 10 that she had been raped by a local taxi "tuk-tuk" driver while his two accomplices restrained her.

Bamford stuck to her bizarre story over the course of nine hours of police questioning, spread over two days. Thai police investigated her claim. After several days of finding nothing but loose ends, they uncovered a security camera video that showed the young woman driving to the hotel on the back of a motorcycle taxi, not a "tuktuk."  When presented with irrefutable security camera evidence, Bamford eventually confessed to lying.

Her motive for lying, police said, was that she was late in returning from a nightclub area to the resort early on a Sunday morning, and she was afraid her boyfriend might be angry.

Bamford was found guilty by a Phuket provincial court on June 15 of making false claims. She was sentenced to serve 15 days in a detention center.

Bamford is the daughter of a retired Australian pro rugby player, and she has been afforded every possible assistance throughout the ordeal she created. Her father appealed to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs to assist her, and she had Australian consular assistance for the entire period of questioning.  Phuket's only woman police officer was also with her for the interviews.

Bamford's penalty should have been 30 days but was cut in half, as is normal in such cases, when Bamford pleaded guilty. The guilty plea, of course, came only after prolonged questioning during which time she continued to lie, and only after irrefutable video proof showed she lied.

She was sentenced to serve her time in a rural detention center instead of the more severe women's prison. Why? Because of "her age" and "the good relations between Thailand and Australia."

But even that slap on the wrist was too much for Bamford. She has appealed her sentence and was granted bail. Instead of serving her very meager time for a false rape claim, she is holidaying at the resort area of Krabi in Southern Thailand.

Will Stevie Bamford ever serve time in prison?  According to news reports, following the recent murder of an Australian travel agent in Phuket, "Thailand may also be looking to repair its battered tourist image, leading to an acquittal."