Woman jailed for perverting the course of justice

26/06/2014

A 30-year-old woman from South Gloucestershire has today been jailed for three-and-a-half years after making a series of false allegations of rape, assault and false imprisonment against her former partner.

Rhiannon Brooker, of Frampton Cotterell, was found guilty of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice following an 11-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.

After deliberating all 20 charges for over a week, the jury was unable to reach a decision on a further eight charges and they will lie on file.

CPS Crown Advocate, James Ward said: "Rhiannon Brooker was charged with perverting the course of justice after making extremely serious and false allegations of rape and assault against her then partner. The jury agreed with the prosecution's case that Ms Brooker had fabricated events and returned guilty verdicts on 12 counts.

"This case was brought both to protect the integrity of genuine rape allegations and victims of rape and because of the devastating effects false allegations of sexual offending can have on genuine victims, innocent people so accused and their families.  There are occasions where a complainant will no longer support the prosecution process for various reasons.  This does not mean the victim will be prosecuted for making the allegation, providing the allegation was genuine.

"In March 2013, we published a report that demonstrated that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are perhaps more rare than previously thought, and that in only a very small number of cases it was considered that there was sufficient evidence and that it was in the public interest to prosecute a person suspected of making a false allegation of rape or domestic violence.

"Rape victims need to know that we take their complaints extremely seriously. We work very closely with the police and support organisations to make sure all victims are given the help they need throughout the process.

"Where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so the CPS will work with the police to prosecute sexual offenders and those who commit domestic violence.

"Charging someone who claims to have been raped is not a decision we take lightly and we will only do so if the evidence to support a prosecution meets the tests under the Code for Crown Prosecutors and our guidance on charging perverting the course of justice in such circumstances."

The conviction is the result of a long and complex investigation into allegations first made to police three years ago.

Officers were called to the Royal United Hospital in Bath in May 2011 after Brooker attended the hospital with injuries and claimed to have been attacked outside her home in South Gloucestershire.

She was taken to a police station in Bath and subsequently made a series of allegations of domestic and sexual assault against her partner Paul Fensome.

Her allegations were supported by friends and fellow students in whom she had confided, injuries she had sustained and other medical evidence, resulting in Mr Fensome being arrested and charged in August 2011.

Further independent evidence subsequently came to light which disproved and undermined her allegations, resulting in the charges being dropped against Mr Fensome in January 2012.

A new investigation team was appointed, led by Detective Chief Inspector Carolyn Belafonte, and as a result of a complex and detailed investigation, including mobile phone, background checks and specialist forensic evidence, Brooker was arrested in November 2012 and later charged with offences of perverting the course of justice.

Chief Superintendent Sarah Crew, Avon and Somerset police lead for rape and sexual offences, said: "Rhiannon Brooker has proved herself to be a very calculating and manipulative woman whose allegations resulted in an innocent man being charged with serious offences and remanded in custody awaiting trial.

"She made a series of false allegations of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence against her partner, which she claimed took place between April 2009 and August 2011.

"Like many other people who encountered her in a professional capacity, we too were initially taken in by her allegations.

"Mr Fensome has been through a difficult and traumatic ordeal over the past three years and I would like to thank him for supporting these court proceedings. We will continue to offer him all the help and support he needs.

"I understand cases like this can cause real concern for victims about whether they will be believed when they come forward. It would be a travesty if this case were to undermine the confidence and experiences of victims.

"We're working closely and extensively with our partners, including organisations such as The Bridge Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS), Next Link, and a network of other service providers which offer independent support and counselling to victims. We want to increase confidence in the investigative and criminal justice process so that more victims come forward and more offenders face the justice they deserve.

"We want to assure all victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse that we will listen to and support you every step of the way."

Earlier this year, a campaign was jointly launched by Avon and Somerset Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner, councils and the NHS, aimed at tackling domestic abuse and rape.

As part of the campaign, a new website called thisisnotanexcuse.org.uk was launched featuring advice on recognising abuse, as well as information on the help and support available to victims. It includes common myths used by people to excuse abuse and challenges those myths as entirely untrue.