Compensation for woman after rape trials collapse over police failings

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Newcastle Law CourtsImage source, Google
Image caption,
Northumbria Police has previously apologised for the cases not going ahead at court

A woman who police believe was sexually abused by a gang from the age of 12 has been paid a five-figure compensation sum after three trials collapsed following police failings.

Fourteen people were found not guilty in March 2019 after police failed to gather evidence properly.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness said the woman deserved better from police.

The woman, who is in her early 20s, said she felt "let down and angry".

She said she spent four years giving police statements and had been given no "clear explanation" by the force of what went wrong.

"I still feel very let down and disappointed," she said. "I'm more angry that there's no trust. The police are not saying 'this is what happened and we're sorry'.

"I had done everything that they had asked us to do and more. And then they didn't trust me enough to tell the truth."

The force has apologised to the alleged victims for "police failings which resulted in the cases not going ahead at court".

'Seek justice'

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Bacon said a review by a department "independent of the investigation" is being concluded but "areas of learning have already been identified" with "action taken to address these".

She said the review's findings would be shared publically once they have been shown to the victims.

Ms Bacon said: "The victims remain at the forefront of our minds and we are committed to ensuring they receive the support they need.

"I would like to make a direct appeal to anyone who is the victim of any form of sexual offence, please do get in touch - we are here to support you and to seek justice."

Image source, Simon Greener
Image caption,
Northumbria Police and crime commissioner, Kim McGuinness. said police had "rightly apologised to the woman"

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was one of three people who agreed to give evidence in three trials as part of the force's Operation Optic, all of which collapsed.

The 14 defendants, one woman and 13 men, had denied the charges against them.

The operation had investigated allegations the group had groomed, raped and trafficked three girls, including one aged 12, in Newcastle between 2010 and 2014.

At the time the trials at Newcastle Crown Court collapsed last year Judge Robert Adams said the investigation "must be transparent and fair" and there was no "reasonable prospect of conviction in each case".

The force carried out an internal investigation.

Image caption,
Solicitor Richard Hardy said he found it "worrying" that Northumbria Police did not refer itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct

Solicitor Richard Hardy, who represented the woman in her civil action, said he found it worrying the force did not refer itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

He said: "I think it's a lost opportunity for Northumbria Police to have regained public confidence by opening their doors, inviting an independent investigation rather than looking into this matter themselves and keeping it in house,

"They've lost the opportunity to achieve some real transparency, some accountability and outside scrutiny and that does remain a concern."

The woman said the years of alleged abuse had marred her life.

She said: "The men didn't allow me to spend time with family or friends so I missed out on all the normal teenager stuff and my teenage years.

"That was my childhood and then a big chunk of my adult life just wasted."

Ms McGuiness added: "This woman has been through a series of traumatic events that led her to a court room experience none of us would ever want to go through.

"She deserved better than the service she got from the police, and they have rightly apologised to her.

"Now she and others need to know what went wrong. I have made clear to the police that updating her on the findings of the report needs to be treated as a priority."

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