A woman has dropped a rape case after five years – because she says the legal system has been stacked against her from the start.
Speaking to The Guardian, the woman said that “the system that everything goes through is completely wrong”.
“If it happened again, I would rather not report it,” she said. “I want to start healing. I hope this will never happen to anyone else again.”
The woman was allegedly raped in 2013 by a colleague in the hotel that they both worked in. After sharing a shift, the pair slept in separate beds: she says she was woken by him sexually assaulting her. She immediately called the police, the man was arrested, and swabs were taken: he later fled abroad.
Five years have passed since this original investigation – and the errors and delays were only exposed after a CPS legal manager sent the woman a letter explaining what happened.
“I do apologise for the delay we have directly caused to the issuing of the arrest warrant,” he wrote. “During a substantial period of 2013 to 2015 the CPS were not seized of your case as we awaited information from the police so that we could draft the relevant warrant. However, from August 2016 until September 2017 the CPS did have conduct of the case and did not act with all due diligence.”
The woman now suffers from anxiety and depression – which she says is caused by the stress of the case.
“I was a happy, bubbly [teenager] who had a love for life. How can the system fail me so badly when it’s supposed to help?”
Campaigners against sexual violence say that the woman’s case is “not an unusual experience”.
“The sheer length of time is caused by under-resourcing. Rape and sexual violence cases are not getting the priority we would expect,” said Rachel Krys, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition.
And a spokesperson for Rape Crisis said that delays and errors are “why so many sexual violence victims and survivors withdraw” from seeking criminal justice.
“This case is an example of the criminal justice system failing a survivor who has had to wait an untenable amount of time for a resolution of her case,” a spokesperson said. “While these particular timescales are exceptionally long, it would seem the police, CPS and courts are struggling to cope with sexual offences.”
Both the Metropolitan Police and the CPS have acknowledged the delay. A spokesperson from the Metropolitan Police said that the force had “every sympathy with the victim for the length of time it has taken to get to this point and have been in constant contact with her to advise her how the case is progressing … we remain committed to pursuing this case”; a CPS spokesperson admitted that the service “could have done more”.
“We have explained our handling of the case and apologised to the complainant”.