Campaigners have launched a judicial review to challenge the decision not to prosecute a man who secretly filmed a sleeping naked woman.
Emily Hunt, who alleges she was raped in May 2015, woke up without any clothes in a hotel bed in London next to a man she says she had never seen before.
The 39-year-old, who says her last memory was of having lunch with a family member in a local restaurant five hours earlier, felt as if she had been drugged and also suspected she had been raped.
The man was arrested on suspicion of rape in 2015 but denied the allegations and was not charged because of a lack of evidence.
Ms Hunt learnt during a meeting with the police a year after the saga that her alleged attacker had taken a video lasting over one minute of her naked and unconscious on the hotel bed for the purpose of “masturbating to it later”.
He told the police in his statement that he knew that he did not have her consent to film the clip and also that he was aware Ms Hunt would be upset if she had woken up while he was filming.
Ms Hunt asked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to charge the alleged perpetrator with an offence linked to the video of her, but was told this did not amount to a criminal offence because the act had occurred in private.
The Centre for Women’s Justice has now launched a judicial review against the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on behalf of Ms Hunt to challenge the refusal to prosecute the individual concerned.
The CPS has stood by their decision not to prosecute him despite Ms Hunt gaining cross-party political support and the government confirming that what happened to her constitutes a criminal offence.
Observing or recording an individual doing a private act for sexual gratification without gaining their consent is illegal and is known as voyeurism, which carries a sentence of up to two years’ imprisonment.
Ms Hunt, who has launched a crowd justice campaign to raise money to allow her to be able to pursue these legal proceedings, said: “The only way to keep this from happening to anyone else in the UK, is to make sure that CPS prosecutes these cases.
"They can’t just decide to not read the law as written and ignore the government’s advice on what the law intended when it was passed. That is why I’m taking them to court to force the issue.”
The Metropolitan Police were called immediately after Ms Hunt suspected she had been raped – with the suspect admitting sex had taken place but claiming it had been with her consent. The CPS’ choice not to prosecute the suspect for rape was made after what the Centre for Women’s Justice describes as a “flawed investigation” by the police.
Ms Hunt even gained support from anti-feminist Conservative MP Philip Davies who wrote to Alison Saunders, the then DPP, who confirmed the decision not to prosecute was justified while also accepting “the law is far from settled but this is certainly an argument which could reasonably be advanced.“
The Centre for Women’s Justice, a legal charity which holds the state to account for failures in the prevention of violence against women and girls, has threatened legal action against the DPP if the decision is not reassessed.
They argue the CPS made a mistake in reaching the conclusion that the claimant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in law with regard to being filmed naked while sleeping.
Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, said: “It is hard to fathom why the CPS has taken such a cowardly approach to prosecuting sexual offences of late, in what is looking like systemic discrimination against women. The consequence is men are emboldened to continue to abuse women because they know there is little chance they will be held to account.”
The CPS is already facing fierce criticism for the alarming drop in prosecutions for rape – with campaigners saying prosecutors are failing rape victims “at every stage” after new figures just revealed the time taken to charge suspects has more than doubled in the past seven years.
Women’s organisations are threatening to take the CPS to court over claims sexual offences cases are being “dropped” without good reason. Earlier in the month, a UK-wide coalition of activist groups, represented by the Centre for Women’s Justice, said the CPS has covertly changed its policy and practice in relation to decision-making on rape cases, leading to a major fall in the number of such cases resulting in a criminal charge.
Government figures show there was a 23 per cent drop in the number of rape cases taken on by the CPS in the 12 months to 2017-18, despite a 16 per cent increase in police-recorded rape over the same period.
Responding to the judicial review, a CPS spokesperson said: “Sexual offences are some of the most complex and challenging cases we prosecute and we will not hesitate to bring a case to court where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest.
"We never take lightly the decision to stop a prosecution as this can have a significant impact on a complainant. But if a case is reviewed and found not to satisfy our legal test then we cannot continue it.”