A DISTRICT court judge has asked the prosecution to go back to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with a court transcript in which a young woman withdrew a complaint of rape because she is ‘terrified’.
Judge Mary Devins made the request at last week’s sitting of Westport District Court after hearing a case where a 20-year-old woman was charged with knowingly giving a false statement to gardaí where she alleged she was raped in Westport in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2017.
The woman made the report to gardaí in Westport shortly after the incident was alleged to have occurred, but in a follow-up statement, she withdrew the complaint saying she thought it was rape at the time but she did give consent.
The woman who was 19 years old at the time contested the charge in court and claimed in her evidence that she was upset after the incident and was balling her eyes out. When asked by her solicitor, Mr William O’Connor why she was upset, she said it was because she had just been raped. When asked why she believed this, she replied; ‘Because I said no’.
She claimed that during the alleged incident, she was held back by the neck and head and received bruising to her neck, back and head.
When asked by Mr O’Connor for the reason of changing her statement, she said she was terrified.
After hearing this evidence, Judge Mary Devins expressed her concern as to the reason for the woman withdrawing her statement. After a short adjournment, Mr O’Connor again asked his client if what happened on January 1, 2017 was rape. She replied, ‘no’ but that at the time, she understood it was rape.
When asked by Inspector Dermot Butler does she now believe what occurred was not rape, she said ‘yes’. When asked by Insp Butler if she now believed their was consent, she replied, ‘I don’t know’. She added that she was still in fear of the person who was involved in the sexual encounter but had not reported this to the Gardaí.
Judge Devins told the court that she did not know if the woman genuinely believed she was raped or not but if she believed she was raped, the matter must go back to the DPP. She said the matter could not be resolved after hearing what was said in court and suggested that the prosecution go back to the DPP’s office with a court transcript.
Garda Darren Conlon had earlier told the court that he was on duty in Westport Garda Station at 1.10am on January 1, 2017, when the woman and her friend arrived into the station. She alleged she had been raped a short time earlier in a car park.
He said they went to the scene of the alleged incident and she showed him where it had occurred before they went back to the station to give a statement.
She stated she was in a pub and had got talking to a man who she knew, and he asked her to come outside and talk about her ex-boyfriend. She claimed that while in the car park he raped her, and that she had said ‘No, no, no’ prior to the assault.
Garda Conlon said the woman was brought to the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit in Galway and gardaí located the alleged assailant. When he was detained and questioned he became distraught and a doctor had to be called. The doctor stated he could not be questioned for up to six hours due to high blood pressure. When he was eventually questioned he claimed the sex was consensual.
Garda Conlon said he arranged for the woman to come back into the station at 3pm later that day to give a detailed statement. However, he said the woman stated she was emotional after the incident and claimed that while she initially said no, she said she ‘gave in’ and said okay.
“I thought it was rape … when I look back I did give consent,” she said in a statement.
Garda Conlon said he interviewed the woman on two further occasions and said that she understood that making a false accusation was wrong. He said the woman did not say she was under duress at any time to withdraw the complaint.
When asked by Mr O’Connor if he was concerned by the amount of alcohol the woman had consumed on the night, he replied that although she had consumed alcohol, she was not incoherent and could answer questions put to her.
Garda Conlon said the file was sent to the DPP and it was decided that the man who was alleged to have committed rape had no case to answer but that the woman was to be charged.
The court also heard that the woman had previously been in an abusive relationship and had said that from this experience she believed what happened to her in the car park was rape. Mr O’Connor argued that at no stage did his client knowingly give a false statement, because at the time she believed she had been raped.
Judge Devins adjourned the case until March 15.