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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 12:55 GMT
Rape victim breaks her silence
A woman has spoken of her regret after the man accused of raping her was convicted on a lesser charge of assault, as a report says not enough is being done to secure rape convictions.

Silhouette of woman with head in hands
Only 5% of reported rape cases result in convictions

Susan, not her real name, said her case ended in a plea bargain after "the most horrendous" 18 months and she felt let down by all of the authorities involved.

Her attacker was found guilty of common assault which meant he was not registered as a sex offender.

She told Radio 4's Today programme she was attacked six years ago after an office party by someone she knew.

She went first to her GP who told her to take her own blood and urine samples to the hospital because she had missed the last collection.

This meant they were not admissible as evidence as they could have been tampered with.

I think it's one of the biggest regrets of my life
"He's a wonderful family doctor... but he had no idea how to handle this case that I presented to him," she said.

"He also said to me that I must really think very, very carefully if I wanted to report the case because I'd be in for a terrible time if I did."

When Susan approached the police she waited three hours before an officer trained in dealing with rape cases got back in touch with her.

Lesser charge

She said her first visit to the police station lasted nine hours and was "very much a case of tea and sympathy" when what she wanted was "somebody who's going to go out there and nail the person".

The police station did not have a medical examination room so she had to be escorted to her local hospital with two uniformed officers.

"I immediately bumped into one of the mothers from the playground which was pretty distressing, I didn't know what to say to her."

Every single stakeholder played a poor part in giving me the most horrendous 18 months of my life
Her case was subsequently passed to the Metropolitan Police and after 18 months finally came to court.

Her only contact with the prosecution lawyer was five minutes before the case began.

"I felt really ill equipped to deal with the sort of decisions I was being asked to make.

"The perpetrator decided to plea bargain with me. He decided to go guilty for a lesser charge... I had no idea what the implications were of that lesser charge."

She was allowed five minutes with a barrister who said she should accept the guilty plea as her attacker was more likely to be cleared if the case went to crown court.

She admitted: "I think it's one of the biggest regrets of my life.

"I hadn't seen the forensic medical examiner's report so I didn't know what medical evidence there was.

"Having seen that now I think I had a really good chance in court. He's not on the sex offenders register, because of the lesser charge, so he's out there still."

Her attacker was convicted of common assault.

Reflecting on her treatment, Susan said she felt it was very poorly handled.

"Every single stakeholder played a poor part in giving me the most horrendous 18 months of my life," she said.

"There needs to be some sort of continuity of care and guidelines for people to follow."




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