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Newcastle Grooming Network Exposed

Seventeen men and one woman have been found guilty of involvement in a sex grooming network in Newcastle upon Tyne that plied vulnerable women and girls with drink and drugs before assaulting them.

In a series of four trials at Newcastle crown court, juries found the men guilty of a catalogue of nearly 100 offences – including rape, human trafficking, conspiracy to incite prostitution and drug supply – between 2011 and 2014.

The men befriended more than 20 victims and invited them to “sessions” at properties, mostly in the west end of the city. The girls were lured by the offer of alcohol and drugs, in particular mephedrone (“Mkat”) and cannabis, and were expected to offer sexual services in return for the substances.

The victims, all females between 13 and 25, were targeted because they were vulnerable and because they were less likely to complain because of their circumstances, the prosecution argued. The court heard accounts of young women who were drugged before waking up to find themselves undressed, having been sexually assaulted.

Rapists escaping justice because police surgeons not up to job

(posed by model): Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Rape already arouses serious anxiety because so few attacks are reported to the police, conviction rates are low, and victims are subject to intrusive questioning in court. But now concerns are growing that rapists are escaping justice because doctors are failing to properly examine victims or record their injuries, depriving police of crucial forensic evidence. In other words, senior doctors fear that some forensic medical examiners (FMEs) are simply not up to the job.

Examining sexual assault victims requires skill, sensitivity and attention to detail, according to Dr George Fernie, president of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine. He explains: “They could have bruising to the body or injuries to the genitalia, or bruising consistent with being grabbed by the upper arms and held, or a woman may have had her legs forced apart. The person needs to be carefully examined to ensure you don’t miss those injuries, and that you take the correct swabs for signs of an assailant’s DNA.”

Specialist police doctors or police surgeons, as forensic medical examiners are also known, look after the victims of crime as well as the health of suspects in custody. But Fernie is worried at the number of cases in which the forensic doctor has missed injuries, failed to take swabs, or has not documented their findings fully – undermining a prosecution. “The Crown Prosecution Service tell us that sometimes in a sexual assault case they can’t proceed with criminal charges because of poor- quality medical evidence,” says Fernie. “Some perpetrators are going free because there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute – because the examining doctor hasn’t done his job right.”   Read more…

Layla’s story: jailed after reporting a sexual assault


Sara Ibrahim says that since the day her little sister Layla was sent to prison, her family has been faced with a simple choice: “Do we give up and just get on with our lives, or do we clear her name? And we’ve decided if it takes the rest of our lives, that’s what we’ll do – we’ll clear her name.”

It was a couple of weeks after she reported being attacked in the early hours of a cold January morning in 2009 that Layla Ibrahim, then 21, noticed a change in the attitude of the police. Yes, the police had documented the injuries to the back of her head and breasts, the black eye, the bleeding from her vagina. They had listened closely as she described the two strangers who attacked her, how the main perpetrator had worn a Nike hoodie, how she thought she had temporarily lost consciousness after being knocked to the ground, how she had felt a “thud” in her vagina but had no clear recollection of what had happened.

The police had seemed sympathetic as she explained how she tried to fend off her attackers with a pair of blunt scissors, and how the second assailant grabbed hold of them and started cutting her hair. Layla told them how eventually she had made her way home, running and bawling, almost feral with fear. The case quickly became high profile, as the local newspaper reported that the police had set up an incident room staffed by 30-40 officers and described it as “one of the city’s biggest manhunts”.


Miscarriages of justice in rape cases

The prosecution of “Sarah”, jailed for making a “false retraction” after years of marital rape and abuse, screams injustice (She accused her husband of rape – and ended up in jail, 27 November). Why was she prosecuted? Why wasn’t her sentence quashed? And why can’t her rapist husband, who kept the children and the flat, be prosecuted now before he reoffends?

You report that at least 30 women are in “similar positions”. We are involved with several women accused of false allegations of rape, and each suffered a miscarriage of justice: evidence not gathered or lost, and a traumatised woman accused of wasting police time, put in the dock and sentenced to two or three years.

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Wikileaks:Julian Assange v Sweden’s broad sexual laws

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is fighting against extradition from Britain to Sweden where he faces allegations of rape and coercing women into having sex – accusations which his defenders say are part of a conspiracy to silence him. Stephen Evans reports from Stockholm on how Swedish law may prove difficult for the Wikileaks founder.

Everybody you talk to in Sweden involved in the Julian Assange affair asserts – often with some irritation – that: “There Is No Conspiracy.”

The Swedish authorities are not acting at the behest of the CIA or the American embassy in Stockholm when they make life difficult for the founder of Wikileaks.

Tough laws

The lawyer for the two women who have accused Mr Assange of coercing them sexually told the BBC it was not part of some wider, global plot.

“Absolutely not,” said Claes Borgstrom. “I represent two women who have experienced something that many thousands of women both in Sweden and in other countries have experienced.”

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Kidnapper of girl,10, in Fleetwood cleared of her rape

The rape trial of a man who abducted a 10-year-old girl in Lancashire has been halted after the child decided she did to want to give evidence.

Kevin Holmes, 28, from Coney Avenue in Crosby, Merseyside, has already admitted kidnap, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and sexual assault.

Preston Crown Court had earlier heard how he abducted the girl as she walked near shops close to her Fleetwood home.

Holmes was cleared of rape after the prosecution offered no more evidence.

Richard Haworth, for the prosecution, told the court that the girl did not want to continue with her evidence.

He said the rape case could not proceed as medical evidence alone was not up to the required standard.

During the trial, which began on Monday, the court heard how the girl went to her local shop in Fleetwood at about 1320 BST on 9 May, and was approached by a man standing near a car.

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Girl,16,jailed at Merthyr after lying about rape

A 16-year-old girl has been jailed for falsely making a rape claim so her boyfriend would not discover she had cheated on him.

The girl, who had consensual sex with a 20-year-old man after a night out, told police that she had been abducted and attacked by three men, Merthyr Crown Court heard.

It led to all three being arrested.

The girl, who admitted perverting the course of justice, received a six-month custodial sentence.

The judge ordered the girl should not be named even though three men she accused were identified in court.

Prosecutor David Pugh said the girl had said she had been pushed up a metal ladder into an attic bedroom and attacked.

But, he said, the truth was uncovered when detectives viewed CCTV footage of her picking up the men in Merthyr Tydfil town centre and kissing one of them.

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Every time somebody makes a false allegation of rape, the public has less confidence in the truth of other complaints of sexual abuse made by genuine victims”

Mr Recorder Jeremy Jenkins QC
Mr Pugh said they returned to the man’s parents’ house and had consensual sex before the girl left and flagged down a police car, claiming she had been raped.

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When reporting rape turns into a crime

The imprisonment of a woman in Wales for withdrawing rape allegations against her husband is a nightmarish addition to the discrimination awaiting women and girls who seek justice after suffering rape and sexual assault.

Just 6.5% of reported rapes end up with a rape conviction (and 87% end with no conviction at all). Stalking, threats to kill and further assaults are common from violent men who have been reported, especially when they have had a relationship with the victim. Two women a week are killed by partners and ex-partners. Many other women commit suicide to end the terrorism they face.

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Herbert attacks waste in criminal justice system

Policing and Justice Minister Nick Herbert welcomed a call for a more joined up, less bureaucratic criminal justice system better serving the needs of victims.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s ‘Stop The Drift’ report highlighted examples of inefficiency in the criminal justice agencies and called for a sustained effort to cut down on bureaucracy.

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Baroness Vivien Stern CBE delivers the CPS Annual lecture, The Crime of rape and justice for victims

On the evening of 21 October 2010, at the Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters at Rose Court in London, Baroness Vivien Stern CBE delivered the third CPS Annual Lecture: ‘The crime of rape and justice for victims’.

You can read the full text of the lecture ‘The crime of rape and justice for victims’