An "irresponsible and wicked" woman was jailed for three years today after she slashed her body, hair and clothing to convince police she was the victim of a serious sexual assault.
A judge told Leyla Ibrahim, 22, she was dishonest from "first to last" as her false claim sparked a major police investigation and led to the arrest of four innocent men.
Her allegation that she was attacked while walking home alone at night led to the suspects being held in custody for more than 60 hours.
One man described his ordeal in detention as "torture" while another attempted self harm, Carlisle Crown Court heard.
Petrol station attendant Ibrahim, of Carlisle, Cumbria, wanted to teach her friends a lesson in January last year after they were said to have refused to give her a lift home.
She told detectives she had been knocked to the ground on a footpath and sexually assaulted by two youths.
Photofits were placed around the city of Carlisle as a team of detectives were deployed for the large-scale manhunt which cost more than £150,000.
The four suspects were arrested but then doubts emerged about Ibrahim's account when a pair of scissors carrying only fibres of her own clothing were found near to the scene of the so-called attack.
Two months after reporting the incident she was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and later charged with the offence.
Ibrahim, who is seven months' pregnant, was then convicted by a jury last month following a 10-day trial.
Sentencing today, Judge Paul Batty QC said: "This is a serious offence. It damages the administration of justice in an extremely sensitive area.
"Every false allegation of rape or serious sexual assault increases the plight of those women who have been the victim of such a dreadful crime and makes it harder to prove where a crime really has taken place.
"Your behaviour throughout these proceedings has been irresponsible in the extreme and many would say wicked.
"You diverted the scant resources of police who looked for the supposed attackers."
He added that "if that was not bad enough" it also led to the arrest of four innocent men.
"They were kept in custody for more than 60 hours and were subjected to extremely distressing examinations of their genitalia," he said.
"One was so upset he attempted self harm.
"You persisted in your dishonest conduct from first to last. You still maintain you were the victim of this serious crime."
The judge said Ibrahim was even given the chance to retract her statement by police who said she needed help and that she convinced a doctor with 20 years of experience in the field that she had suffered extreme pain.
"You went to great lengths to make out an attack had taken place," he continued. "You tore up your clothing, and cut your own body with a pair of scissors.
"You feigned illness and injury.
"When internally examined there was nothing wrong with you.
"It is entirely clear in this case you craved attention and you wanted your friends who had left you that night to know you were the subject of a serious sex attack.
"You wanted to teach them a lesson. You are extremely immature."
Ibrahim, of Deerpark Road, will serve half her sentence in custody before she is released on licence for the remaining period.
Tim Evans, prosecuting, said one of the individuals arrested described his period in custody as "torture" and that he was "devastated" at being linked to the supposed crime.
"Another said the taking of samples was horrible and that people were spreading rumours on his release that he was a rapist," he said.
A bout of depression and self-harm was triggered in a third man during his time in detention, Mr Evans said.
Hilary Manley, defending, said: "There is very little I can say given her comments to the author of the pre-sentence report. She maintains her innocence.
"I have to accept the suffering of the four males arrested who were fortunately released.
"I also accept the impact on the police and society on these sort of offences.
"All I can say was that no actual male was named or deliberately identified but that would be of scant comfort to the four individuals who were kept in custody for some time."
She said the defendant had no psychological background and showed no personality issues prior to January last year.
She had been apparently leading an exemplary life in work with no issues with drugs or excess alcohol - although the trial heard evidence she had been binge drinking on the night of her false claim.
Miss Manley said the defendant, supported by her family in court, was due to give birth on September 12 and wanted her child to stay with her in custody.
Judge Batty praised detectives in the inquiry for their thoroughness in dealing with the "extremely sensitive and delicate case" and said the lead officer and interviewing officer should be commended.
Following sentencing, the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Superintendent Cath Thundercloud, said: "When this young woman reported to police that she had been sexually assaulted, we took her seriously.
"We conducted a large-scale and complex investigation with dedicated teams of detectives working long hours to gather forensic evidence, manage crime scenes and question suspects and witnesses.
"It was only when we began to uncover evidence to suggest that the incident had not taken place that we began following those lines of inquiry.
"As the senior investigating officer I had to think long and hard about progressing this prosecution. I was concerned that it may deter genuine victims from coming forward.
"We have a duty to present our findings before a judge and jury so that they can ensure that justice is done and this was a rare example where the evidence gathered pointed to the rape not having occurred.
"The most important thing to me now is to ensure that victims of sex assaults continue to call police immediately. You will be taken seriously. You will be supported and we will investigate thoroughly."
Linda Vance, District Crown Prosecutor for Cumbria, said: "This sort of case, where someone fabricates an allegation of sexual assault and continues with that false allegation, is very rare.
"But as in this case, the consequences can be very serious.
"Not only was this false allegation very worrying for the local community who feared there were two attackers still at large in the area, they also resulted in the arrest of four innocent men.
"Perverting the course of justice in this way is a serious matter as it undermines the whole basis of our justice system.
"This case should not in any way deter victims of rape or sexual assault from coming forward. If you have been the victim of sexual assault you will be taken seriously and you will be believed and supported.
"We have been working very closely with the police and voluntary organisations to continue to improve how we deal with sexual offence cases as well as how we support victims in bringing cases to court. And as a result in the last year we have seen an increase in the number of convictions for these offences.
"We will continue to do all we can to provide the best service possible to victims of sexual violence."Reuse content