A young woman who said she had been raped went on to kill herself after the Crown Prosecution Service put her on trial for making up the allegation in a case originally instigated by her alleged attacker.
The woman’s father is calling on the CPS to explain why they pursued a charge of perverting the course of justice against Eleanor de Freitas, 23, despite being told by police that there was no evidence she had lied, and in the knowledge that she was suffering from a psychiatric illness.It is indeed a curious case, as the CPS is notoriously reluctant to take such action.
And I can understand the father’s grief about her suicide, and even understand why he takes her side in this (what father would do otherwise?), but he’s wrong, very wrong indeed, to demand that men should be stripped of their right to defend their name in court:
David de Freitas, her father, said: “Eleanor was a vulnerable young woman, diagnosed with bipolar, who made a complaint of rape as a result of which she herself became the subject of legal proceedings. This was despite the fact the police did not believe there to be a case against her.
“There are very serious implications for the reporting of rape cases if victims fear that they may themselves end up the subject of a prosecution if their evidence is in any way inconsistent. It is of the utmost importance that the CPS consider very carefully whether such cases are in the public interest.”The CPS appear to have overtaken the original private prosecution (and remember, that would have a far lower balance of probabilities than a criminal case) so is he suggesting that this too should not have been allowed to proceed?
He added: “I feel that the system of fairness in this country has let me down terribly, and something needs to be done so that this can never happen again.”I’ve no doubt he does feel that way, perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly, but maybe the accused also feels that he has been wronged - by the accusation.
Should he be denied the opportunity to challenge this slur on his name in court, as he would be allowed to do had she accused him of any other slander, such as cheating at cards? Where’s the ‘fairness’ in that?
Of course, the usual suspects have mounted their High Horses Of Righteousness and are in full gallop:
Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive of the charity Victim Support, said the “tragic and troubling case” raised broader concerns about the use of private prosecutions against rape complainants.
“We are concerned in principle about someone who has been accused of rape being able to bring a private prosecution against the complainant because this allows that individual to use the law to do something guaranteed to intimidate their accuser,” he said.You may indeed look at it like that. It’s a bit worrying that you do, though.
Because perhaps you’d like to consider the dictionary definition of ‘victim support’ and whether someone falsely accused might also fit that definition, and so be deserving of support and the backing of the legal system to redress that wrong.
Whether they have ovaries or testicles. It shouldn’t matter.
Update: Heresy Corner advises that the private prosecution would NOT have been to a lower balance of probabilities than the criminal case.