Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rape victim upset? Well, she's smiling on Facebook said lawyer

By Ryan Kisiel

A barrister has caused outrage by suggesting a rape victim could not have been upset by her ordeal because there were photos of her on Facebook looking happy.

The woman was attacked in 2001 when she was 19 and has since tried to kill herself.

Her attacker, Anthony Francis, was caught seven years later as a result of a DNA sample.

His barrister tried to persuade a judge to be lenient by showing pictures posted on the social networking site of the woman laughing and smiling at a fancy dress party in the years since the rape.

Colin McCarraher, defending, told Reading Crown Court last week: 'What we have is a person who has post traumatic stress but is quite capable of going out and having a good time at a fancy dress party.'

Mr McCarraher told the court that although he did not know when the images had been taken, they did not tally entirely with someone struggling to rebuild their life.

The barrister's attempt to save his client from a lengthy prison sentence failed and Deputy Circuit Judge Stanley Spence jailed Francis for five-and-a-half years.

Last night the barrister's comments were criticised by Martin Salter, Labour MP for Reading West.

Mr Salter, a member of the home affairs select committee, said: 'This quite extraordinary and callous attempt by the defence barrister to suggest that rape victims are not entitled to a life of their own is a shameful act and does no credit to our criminal justice system.'

Yvonne Traynor, chief executive of the South London branch of Rape Crisis, said: 'The barrister should be banished from his job and not allowed to return.

'If he had met any rape victim and seen what it can do to people's lives, I doubt he would have acted in the same way. It is disgusting.'

During Francis's trial last month, Reading Crown Court heard how he met his victim in the Matrix nightclub in the town on July 21, 2001.

She left the club with him and he drove her to a park, where he raped her in his car. The woman said that after a while she stopped struggling so as not to prolong the attack.

Francis then drove her back to the nightclub, where she instantly made a complaint of rape. Francis, who now lives in Wolverhampton, evaded arrest for seven years until he was stopped by police in the West Midlands for another matter and his DNA matched a sample taken from the victim.

He admitted having sex with the woman but claimed that it had been consensual. However, a jury did not believe him and found him guilty of one count of rape on September 10 this year.

The court heard that the victim had tried to kill herself in 2003 and it was only in the last year that she had been able to move on with her life.

Leslie Bates, prosecuting, said: 'She described herself as a happy, bubbly person who was thoroughly enjoying life.

'She was happy in her relationship, happy in her employment, and what happened on that day clearly changed her life greatly over the next seven years.

'She describes how she became depressed and at the beginning of February 2003 she took an overdose. Fortunately she was found by a friend.'

Last night Mr McCarraher refused to comment on the mitigation methods he used.

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