In autumn 2010 a woman was given an 8-month jail sentence for retracting an allegation of rape which she maintained had truly happened. The woman originally called the police to say she had been anally, orally and vaginally raped by her husband, who she had been with for nine years. She was taken to a women's refuge and he was charged with six counts of rape.
But in the end, it was the woman herself - the rape victim - who was sent to prison. She had asked to drop the charges - but she had asked to do so because she was being pressured by her husband and his family. She was afraid.
It seems the law enforcement agencies knew about the woman's situation, but they still went ahead and tried her for perjury and wasting police time.
She was freed by the Court of Appeal, which accepted the woman had been subjected to domestic violence. The Lord Chief Justice commented that there should be "a broad measure of compassion for a woman who had already been victimised".
Yes. Victimised once by her husband, then again by the criminal justice system.
But the verdict was not overturned and the woman's custodial sentence was replaced with a two year community sentence. So, although freed from prison, she now has a criminal record and the husband accused of raping her so violently remains at liberty and possesses a clean record.
Thankfully, the Criminal Prosecution Service responded to the public outcry about the case and launched a consultation into its treatment of such situations.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer told an interviewer from the Guardian he felt it was important to restore confidence so victims of rape felt able to tell the police what had happened to them.
Actually creating some confidence where before there was none is what needs to be done. It is daunting enough for rape victims to report their ordeals without the added threat of prosecution if they feel unable to pursue their case.
For the moment, the DPP has asked that any perjury/wasting police time cases relating to rape and/or domestic violence should be referred to him before being taken forward. At the same time, the CPS consultation is continuing and will finish taking opinions on May 6th 2011.
I can only hope that this and the authorities' response to the Stern review into rape cases will start to turn the tide against the rapists. They have been allowed to remain in the ascendant for too long while the victim-count piles up in its thousands. And those victims not only suffer the mental and physical after effects of sexual violence, they are often victimised again by the general public for somehow "deserving" to be raped and in cases like the one mentioned above, victimised once more by the very system that is supposed to support them.
And supposedly, we live in a "civilised" society. It doesn't seem very civilised to me.