22 October, 2010


The machine has started and cannot now be halted

Julia continues her series on rape trials that should never have come to court. Here is another example. As I took part in the trial in question as a juror, I will give no identifying detail and vouch that all of the information below represents either spoken evidence given in open court or inferences which may readily be drawn from that evidence.

Two boys stood accused of the rape of a girl. All three principals were children aged about 13 to 14 and pupils at the same school. The alleged attack took place at the school during the school day in a secluded room during some kind of free or break period.

During the trial, the alleged victim's evidence was contradictory and in due course she admitted, effectively unprompted, that the dalliance was entirely consensual. A directed verdict of not guilty was returned.

So what happened here? From what the plaintiff specifically admitted under defence questioning and reading between the lines a bit, I'd say the following.

A bit of fairly heavy teenage fumbling went on in that room and the participants lost track of time. In consequence the girl was late for her next lesson. Asked for an explanation she said the first thing that came into her head, claiming that she had felt unwell and had visited the school sick bay for treatment. Of course this is something that can easily be checked, and the teacher did so. Confronted with her fib, the girl panicked and made up a story of forcible detention and assault.

A keyword had been uttered which triggered an essentially automatic and effectively unstoppable bureaucratic process. Reports submitted, involvement of the police and the CPS and of course the eventual trial. A process in which the participants, be they teachers or police or CPS or the principals themselves were powerless to intervene. Particularly the supposed victim herself: having set this fearsome leviathan in motion she could hardly have recanted her lie without what would have been to her unfathomable consequences, could she?

So instead of a bit of further probing by the teachers leading to a lecture on the consequences of lying and a clip round the ear...

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