The court ruling that shows the injustice of Britain's rape laws
Jailed wife loses appeal over 'falsely retracting rape claim' – yet judge accepts she feared for her children
Wednesday 14 March 2012
A woman who was jailed for "falsely retracting" rape allegations against her allegedly abusive husband has lost her bid to overturn her "unsafe" conviction for perverting the course of justice.
The mother of four young children – known as Sarah – was sentenced to eight months in prison in November 2010 after she admitted perverting the course of justice by retracting accusations that her husband had repeatedly raped her.
He had been charged with six counts of rape but the case was discontinued when she changed her position after, she says, extreme pressure from her husband and his sister. She was charged after later telling police it was the retraction that had been false.
The Court of Appeal accepted that the 29-year-old woman from Wales was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder at the time, but said it could not "quash a conviction on a broad, somewhat nebulous basis of unfairness where the conviction, following due process, is in every respect safe" because the woman was "undoubtedly guilty of a serious crime".
The court upheld her conviction because there was no admissible evidence of duress.
Lord Judge said: "Although feeling concerned for or even fearful of her husband, or a sense of guilt, or concern about what would happen to her children if her husband was in prison for 10 years or thereabouts ... [this] does not constitute duress."
Sarah and her legal team, who said the decision was "extremely surprising and disappointing", are considering whether to take the case to the Supreme Court to push for a change in the law.
Her husband has never been charged but Alison Levitt QC, representing the Crown, conceded at the appeals court last month that it "unreservedly accepts the factual background to this case. It's plain that [the woman] was subjected to a lengthy period of domestic violence."
In an earlier hearing, Sarah's barrister, Niall Quinn QC, had told the three judges that on top of the persistent abuse, Sarah's husband had forced her to work in a massage parlour, providing sexual services for other men.
David Malone, head of 1 Gray's Inn Square chambers and part of Sarah's legal team, said he was "shocked" that a "prosecution that should never have been brought" had been upheld.
But a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "The CPS has put in place guidelines for prosecutors entitled Perverting the Course of Justice – Charging in Cases Involving Rape and/or Domestic Violence Allegations – something that the Court of Appeal commented on positively today. There is therefore no further action."
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