Man appeals to sue his rape accuser

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The Independent Online

Women who cry rape face being sued for hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages if the prosecution fails to secure a conviction in court, it was claimed during a landmark legal challenge yesterday.

Anthony Hunt, 69, a former magistate from Dorset, was jailed for rape for four years in 2003 but had his conviction quashed on appeal in 2005. Yesterday he asked the Court of Appeal to allow him to sue his accuser, identified as AB, for damages of £300,000 for what he said amounted to his malicious prosecution. The case could open the floodgates for compensation claims from hundreds of men who have been cleared of rape.

Lawyers and women's rights groups said that, if successful, the action could set back the prosecution of rape by decades. Mr Hunt has argued that the woman became the prosecutor by giving a witness statement to police in 2002 and by agreeing to give evidence against him, although the charge was brought by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Anna Mills, a lawyer at law firm Lovells, who acts for AB on a pro bono basis, said: "The case is unusual because Mr Hunt brought his initial claim against the complainant rather than the prosecuting authorities. This means that our client... is personally having to defend his claim for £300,000 in damages."

Ms Mills added: "Casting AB as the 'prosecutor' in a rape case brought by the proper authorities is oppressive... If the appeal succeeds, it will have serious public policy implications and allow rape complainants... to be sued by their alleged attackers."