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Cheers - AE

Friday, 22 October 2010

It's not a little fib, you know.

There are white lies, bad lies and disgraceful lies, but among the worst lies that can be told must surely be to point the police at a man and claim that he raped you. Aside from the waste of police time investigating a non-existent crime the stigma that attaches even to suspected rapists can cost them their livelihoods and even on occasion their lives. It must be a life shattering experience that in it's own way is on a par with rape itself. Do I go too far with that? We're told that rape is above all the exercise of power over someone helpless to resist, that the power is used to humiliate and degrade that person, and that the devastating emotional effects is something that will stay with the victim long after any physical marks have faded, if indeed the victim isn't driven to suicide by the experience. So tell me how the power to ruin someone's life to much the same extent with a simple lie isn't up there with rape? There's no physical attack involved, although if there's any prison time spent as a result of a false rape accusation the victim of the lie will likely enter prison feeling some fear for his life and will be very lucky indeed not to get roughed up, if not literally raped himself. With all this in mind if someone deliberately lies about rape knowing this then I can't honestly say that what they're doing is significantly less malicious and evil than what a real rapist does to his victims, which brings up a question: why the hell don't these liars get jailed more often than they do?

The last time I counted at her blog the admirable Ambush Predator, who feels little in the way of sororal love for fellow females who commit this crime, had well over forty examples of false rape accusations, very few of which had resulted in any jail time for the guilty party and absolutely none of which resulted in a sentence anywhere near what the victim would have got (or occasionally did get) if the false allegation had stuck. So the news that one liar is probably going to jail is welcome.
An office worker who falsely cried rape is facing jail after her lies led to an innocent man being arrested.
Brunette Samantha Merry, 21 ... admitted making up the allegation against a 37-year-old man.
The suspect was arrested at his home and faced a four-month police investigation, with the possibility of a lengthy jail term if convicted.
Judge Anthony Goldstaub QC, sitting at Chelmsford Crown Court, told Merry: 'Sort out your affairs on the assumption you're likely to be sent to prison.'
Merry, of Great Baddow, Essex, was charged with perverting the course of justice on July 14. She pleaded guilty and will be sentenced on November 15.
The court heard 235 hours of police time were wasted investigating the false claim before the charges were dropped against the man, from Chelmsford.
Judge Goldstaub said: 'Perverting the course of justice is a serious matter.
'A false allegation of rape - as a result a man is arrested in his home, he spent 15 weeks on bail and there were 235 man hours wasted.
'It has a bad impact on people and affects rape cases all over the country.'
After the case, Chief Inspector Joe Wrigley, of Essex Police, said: 'Justice has been done and I hope it serves as a warning to anyone who would want to make a false allegation.
'There are enough real crimes for us to investigate. The real victims need our support and those who don't should refrain from doing this.'
I agree, Mr Wrigley, but I'd hope that you include the man Merry falsely accused - and kudos to The Mail for not naming him - as a victim as well.

Anyway, that one liar has been convicted and has been told to expect jail, and since perverting the course of justice technically carries a maximum of life imprisonment the judge could in theory impose the kind of sentence that he would have given a man who'd ruined his victim's life by means of rape - this is in no way a victimless crime, remember. However, the bad news is that she won't get anything like it if the judge follows the sentencing guidelines (and of course if he doesn't she's probably going to win on appeal).
General sentencing brackets summarised in Archbold at 28-28 as follows:
  • threatening or interfering with witnesses - 4 months to 24 months.
  • concealing evidence - 4 months to 18 months, possibly longer if serious crime.
  • false allegation of crime resulting in arrest of innocent person - 4 to 12 months.
Four months to a year, meaning in reality two to six months if Merry's bright enough to behave herself inside. That is what she can expect for putting her victim through four months of hell. Four months of living in shame at what others thought of his character. Four months of sleepless nights. Four months of fear of trial and prison for a crime he didn't commit, and the torment that he could expect if it got that far. And even now that's over he'll probably never be able to Google his own name without seeing a few results with 'accused of rape', probably never feel completely above suspicion despite the conviction of his tormentor. And it gets worse when you think about why the sentence is so light - I suspect she's not actually being punished for what she did to him at all, but for what she did to the 'course of justice'. I don't have a problem with that as such, but again I feel a need to point out that there was a real victim here. A real person who will have suffered as a result of Samantha Merry's decision to use her power to sic the police on to him in order to shame, humiliate and degrade him.

The police had their time wasted, and that's wrong in itself, but what about the real victim? Does it seem fair that she may well serve less time than he did on bail? Does it seem fair that a rapist normally serves years (and yes, often not enough of them) for the lives that he ruins but a lie that can create the same effects is punished by serving weeks, and that only infrequently? Does it seem like equality of before the law?

Because it certainly doesn't to me.
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