Woman to be sued for libel by jailed rapist

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The Independent Online
A convicted rapist won the right to sue a woman for libel over a letter she wrote to police, which, he claims, cost him the chance of parole. Michael Streeter, Legal Affair Correspondent, reports on an extraordinary case.

Bank clerk Lynne Griffiths wrote to police complaining about constant "harassment" from rapist David Daniels, who was serving a life sentence. She said the numerous letters and telephone calls from the prisoner, who was at Gartree prison, were affecting the health of her family.

That letter helped keep Daniels behind bars, persuading prison authorities and doctors that his claims of an emotional relationship with Mrs Griffiths - who was not the rape victim - were invented. The Parole Board panel refused to release him.

Now, as a result of her complaint, Mrs Griffiths is being forced to defend an expensive libel action, and already faces costs running into tens of thousands of pounds after she failed yesterday to get his action stopped. Legal aid is not available and both parties are having to fund their own costs.

Mrs Griffiths' solicitor, Ann Morgan, said her client was "devastated and bewildered" by yesterday's ruling.She now had to face a full trial, seeing Daniels in court and incurring more expense. "We are determined to fight on," said Ms Morgan. "The alternative is unthinkable - namely to lie by admitting a relationship with the plaintiff which is a figment of his imagination."

Although Daniels has been convicted of no offence against Mrs Griffiths, one concern is that the case could dissuade victims from approaching authorities in the future if they are worried about the release of their attacker. Probation officers are obliged to seek the views of the victim before preparing parole reports.

The Court of Appeal, overturning an earlier judgement, ruled that Daniels' action was not an abuse of process and designed solely to harass Mrs Griffiths.

At the hearing, Cherie Booth QC, for Daniels, said her client claimed Mrs Griffiths' letter to South Wales police was libellous and he should have the chance to sue her and cross-examine her in court. Ms Booth asked that the truth of his claims could be tested and "convince the prison authorities he is not mad".

"He has always maintained there was no physical relationship but there was a strong affection between them which she could not acknowledge."

Sir Brian Neill, giving judgement alongside Lord Justice Hirst and Lord Justice Swinton Thomas, said Daniels maintained that the authorities treat him as though he had made up a "completely fictitious account" of the relationship.

"Unless he can establish the true position by means of these proceedings, he has no prospect of correcting this misconception and therefore no realistic prospect of obtaining parole."

He said Daniels' action faced "formidable difficulties", but the defendant had not shown it was bound to fail.

Mrs Griffiths has said that Daniels , who was convicted in 1983, had never been anything more than the man who served her while he was employed at a local newsagents in Swansea.

She wrote to police saying she feared he would attack her if he was released, and in June, 1994 the parole board turned down his application after he had served 11 years of his sentence, saying his feelings for Mrs Griffiths were "pathological".