Girl, 8, admits she lied about sexual assault

An eight-year-old girl who told her mother that two 10-year-old boys had sexually assaulted her, yesterday said in court that she had lied about the incident because she had been "naughty" and was worried she would not get any sweets.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had earlier alleged that the boys, who are among the youngest ever to be tried for rape in a British court, had pulled her pants down and exposed themselves before raping her.

But yesterday under cross-examination she said that she had voluntarily been playing with the boys, who also cannot be named, and had pulled down her own underwear.

Linda Strudwick, defending one of the boys, asked her: "Did you ever tell your mum it was not you but it was [the boys] who took your knickers down? You didn't want your mum to think you had been naughty?"

The girl, giving evidence from behind a screen, replied: "Yeah."

Chetna Patel, representing the other boy, asked whether he had raped her. The girl replied: "No."

The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, asked what the girl had been worried about and she replied: "No sweets if it [sic] found out I had been naughty."

The prosecution had earlier alleged that the boys took the girl to a secluded spot in Hayes, west London, to assault her last October.

Rosina Cottage, prosecuting, said: "Together they took her to different locations near where they lived in order to find a sufficiently secluded spot to assault her. The events leading to the alleged rapes all took place in and around a block of flats and they ended in a field."

Yesterday, jurors were given a virtual-reality tour of the area where the alleged attacks had taken place.

The girl gave instructions for where the camera should go. Speaking on a screen from an ante-room, she told a police operator to point to a bush, a lift in a block of flats, a stairwell and two bin sheds. At a second shed behind another building she pointed out a gap in the fence, leading to a field.

The girl gave most of her evidence via video link. Throughout the trial, she held her teddy bear, Mr Happy, on her lap. While giving evidence, she was seen clasping her hands together, running her hands through her hair and occasionally yawning. She would often reply that she could not remember the exact details of what had happened.

In a video interview, filmed the day after the alleged incident and played to the court, the girl told police officers: "They pulled my pants down. I didn't want to and then they put me into the lift and then they done it again."

The two boys watched proceedings in the well of the court, sitting between their mothers and solicitors. Neither the barristers nor the judge wore gowns or wigs because of the age of the defendants.

Due to the nature of the trial, several measures were taken to protect the integrity of those involved. After she had finished providing evidence, Mr Justice Saunders thanked the girl, noting that she appeared exhausted: "No one is suggesting you have done anything wrong. I am the judge. I know when people have done something wrong. You have not done anything wrong. Remember that."

The jury heard that when the child was taken to hospital with stomach pains, she did not have any injuries to her genitalia, but had a number of scratches and grazes.

The older boy denies assaulting the girl but, during an interview with police, admitted exposing himself and touching her in a sexual way. The boys, now 11 and 10, deny two charges of rape and two of attempted rape of a child under 13. The trial continues.