The Human Rights Act allows victims of rape to seek justice when ignored by the police

A woman known only as DSD made a complaint to the Metropolitan police in 2003.1 She claimed she was sexually assaulted by London cab driver John Worboys, yet the police did not believe her and the case was ignored.

In 2007, another woman came forward. Known as NBV, she filed a similar complaint with the Met. These appalling claims were also disregarded.

Credit: Tony C. Frech/Getty Images

Finally, in 2009, these women are now on the road to justice. However, after 6 years since DSD filed the initial claim, justice is a little too late.2 Although John Worboys was sentenced to life in prison in 2009, he is believed to have attacked and sexually assaulted over 100 women after 2003. These drug- and alcohol-induced crimes have allowed him bear the shameful moniker “the London black cab rapist.” This is largely due to Scotland Yard’s botched investigation.

Indeed, Mr Justice Green cites the systematic failings in the investigation of rape as grounds for the police to analyze assault allegations under the Human Rights Act (HRA).3 Green ruled that to not further investigate these failings would breach the victims’ human rights. Consequently, DSD and NBV sued the Met under Article 3 of the HRA, which protects against inhuman and degrading treatment.

Credit: Murray Sanders

Initially, the judge challenged Green, asserting that the Met’s failure to believe the complaints would not have led to Worboys’ earlier apprehension. Green staunchly disagreed. He argued, “It is obvious that … all of the rapes and assaults that were subsequently committed would have been prevented.”4

DSD claimed she was fraught with guilt even 11 years after she was attacked. She bore the responsibility for what happened to the other victims, but the investigation into the Met’s failings allowed her to see that she was not culpable. NBV added that being ignored by the police was almost worse than the rape itself.

The Met police argued that the HRA did not hold them responsible to investigate the rape claims properly.

However, the Met was held accountable and in 2013 the High Court found the Met liable to DSD and NBV.5 DSD, who suffered from a depressive disorder, was awarded £22,250. NBV, who suffered from distress, anxiety, guilt, and PTSD, was awarded £19,000.

This case illustrates how the HRA protects vulnerable victims in cases where they are not protected under common law.6 It can be used to correct the inadequacies of rape investigations that result from disbelief by the police. Indeed, “the protection offered by Article 3 of the Human Rights Act will in many cases be the only effective means by which rape victims, who have been subject to the dual horror of the ordeal of the attack itself being then compounded by not being believed or taken seriously, can challenge investigative failings by the police.”7

Megan Erickson, Staff Writer









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