Woman jailed over false rape accusation

A woman who falsely accused a man of rape and turned his life into the "stuff of nightmares" was today jailed for 18 months.

Samantha Merry, 21, of Chelmsford, Essex, admitted perverting the course of justice during a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Judge Anthony Goldstaub QC said Merry's "wickedness" had "discredited the administration of justice" and wasted police time.

Prosecutors said Merry had made a 13-page statement to police, the rape inquiry had occupied more than 200 hours of police time and £3,700 of public money had been spent on forensic examinations alone.

The judge was told that Merry's victim had been arrested after eight police officers woke him and his family just after 4am. He then spent 23 hours in police custody and 16 weeks on bail.

Inconsistent forensic evidence had caused police to question the allegation and Merry had admitted lying, prosecutors said.

Merry said a crack cocaine dealer had told her to make the allegation and she had hoped to clear a £3,000 drug debt.

"As a result of your allegation, your victim's life became the stuff of which nightmares are made," said the judge.

"The administration of justice is discredited by the kind of thing you have done. Police time is wasted ... truth violated, the moral fabric which holds our community together is damaged."

He said the victim had been left to contemplate the possibility of a jury trial and a five or six-year prison sentence.

Merry had been 20 when she made the allegation in March , the judge was told.

Paul Donegan, for Merry, said the "use of cocaine had troubled" his client for some years and she was receiving treatment.

He said Merry suffered from depression and panic attacks and there was "something troubling" about her "attention-seeking behaviour".

Mr Donegan said there had been little "pre-planning" and told the court that Merry had suffered as a result of her offence being reported in the media.

"She has suffered a significant amount of abuse," said Mr Donegan. "She has also lost a significant number of friends as a result of her behaviour."