Teenager's life of fear after rapist is bailed: Law allowing release of attacker before appeal condemned as injustice by family of victim. reports

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'Today,' the 16-year-old girl wrote in her diary, 'is the worst day of my life.'

'Katie', described how in July last year Annunziato di Luca, a restaurant owner, raped her. 'He locked the restaurant doors and came up behind me. I was a virgin; he tore me inside.'

Last month di Luca, 30, from Bathgate near Edinburgh, was sentenced to five years but he appealed and was released on bail after serving three weeks.

Katie only discovered that he was free after an inmate, who had met di Luca in Saughton Prison near Edinburgh, wrote to a newspaper to express his disgust at his release. Now she is urging the Government to change the law to ensure that convicted rapists are denied bail pending appeal and victims are informed if their attacker is freed.

She said yesterday: 'When di Luca was convicted I felt safe for the first time in eight months. I thought I could go out with my parents or friends without the terrible fear that I might see him. What I did not know - because nobody had bothered to tell me - was that he was already out.

'I could have walked straight into him. I am the victim and the courts have decided that he is a rapist. But he is the one who is free and here I am sitting at home too scared to go out. Where's the justice in that?'

Di Luca was granted 'interim liberation' by Lord Morison, a High Court judge, at a private hearing. All appellants, except those found guilty of murder, can apply for release until the appeal is heard and neither the victim nor the police are informed of the judge's decision. It is usually granted when a short custodial sentence has been imposed. Lawyers have privately expressed surprise at Lord Morison's decision. On Wednesday Katie wrote, through her parents, to Lord Hope, Scotland's most senior judge, to express her 'outrage' over the case.

She said: 'To me, rapists should be treated in the same way as murderers. If they are convicted they should not be allowed out before an appeal, and if and when they are released, their victims should be informed. It is too late in my case. But the law should be changed so that no one else has to go through an ordeal like this.'

Her parents, aged 42 and 45, added: 'We have brought up our children to respect the law and we have never had any reason to doubt the law. But we are bewildered by what has happened. Do we have to wait until di Luca rapes another innocent person before the courts take notice?' Lords Morison and Hope have declined to comment on the case.

Gordon Henderson, di Luca's lawyer, said his client 'understood' Katie's anxieties but he had accepted the bail conditions and would not approach her.

Katie, an office junior, is to meet Judy, the Edinburgh woman who has become an unofficial adviser to the Government after she recounted her ordeal at the hands of a 20-year-old man to the Conservative Party conference last year. Judy said Lord Morison's decision showed a lack of human understanding. 'In my own case I was devastated when my attacker's sentence was reduced from life to six years' imprisonment on appeal,' she said. 'But this girl knows that her attacker is free just weeks after his conviction. For that to happen, and for her to find out about it not from the authorities but through another criminal, is scandalous.'

The Crown Office in Edinburgh said yesterday it had no plans to inform rape victims of their attacker's release. Such a system would be 'cumbersome and time- consuming'. But ministers would consider proposals by Katie or her parents, who are to write to Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the Scottish Home Affairs minister, next week to demand a change in the law.

(Photograph omitted)