Monday, 17 December 2007
Sunday, 16 December 2007
Mark Townsend, crime correspondent
Sunday December 16, 2007
The first payouts of more than £140,000 were made last week to four women who suffered a 'sustained period of sexual abuse'. Another 10,000 are estimated to be eligible under a new interpretation of Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority guidelines.
Authority officials told the London law firm Lovells, which is acting for a number of the victims, that it would 'officially recognise' the trauma experienced by thousands of women and children.
The development is likely to be politically controversial, with charges that offering help to trafficking victims could encourage illegal immigration.
The women who received £140,000 were smuggled from eastern Europe by British-based criminals using established international sex trafficking networks. One girl was illegally brought into the UK five years ago, aged 13. Another was trafficked in 2003 when she was 16. Both were kept prisoner by the same trafficking syndicate until they managed to escape at the start of last year.
According to lawyers, who have agreed to protect the identity of claimants, they were subject to 'forced prostitution, multiple rapes and beatings' while being held captive in the UK. In addition, their captors refused to give the victims money and warned they would be killed if they fled. The highest award was £62,000, the lowest £16,500.
The authority, which awards compensation to victims of violent crime, has agreed payments for 'false imprisonment and forced prostitution during the time of their imprisonment' though neither exists as an official category for damages. Sarah Johnson, of Lovells, said: 'This will serve as a precedent for other cases and we are delighted.'
The Poppy Project, which helps trafficked women after they have been rescued from their captors, hailed the payments as a 'tremendous breakthrough' and said that, in theory at least, thousands of women would qualify.
The women who have received compensation are understood not to have been deported. Victims will shortly win the right to stay in Britain temporarily after the government signalled its intent to ratify the Council of Europe's convention on action against trafficking.
Alongside the controversy of granting women the right to remain, even if only for a limited period, there are also concerns that traffickers might force women to make fraudulent compensation claims that would find their way to criminals. Although trafficking victims will only be required to make a police report - as opposed to assisting a full criminal investigation - to register a claim, experts said the fact they would require legal help as well as having to prove they had successfully escaped their traffickers would help prevent suspect claims.
Julie Barton, of the Poppy Project, said: 'Previously, women have received no financial support for them to start afresh or to address the terrible circumstances they have had to endure. Often they are forced to return vulnerable and traumatised to their home country without any support'.
The scale of sex trafficking is of increasing concern to police. Officially, the Home Office believes the number of illegal immigrants being sexually exploited at any one time is about 4,000. Investigators and support groups, however, calculate numbers are likely to be in excess of 10,000 and describe known cases as the 'tip of the iceberg'.
Even small towns are likely to have a brothel. Peterborough is a typical example. As little as three years ago, the Cambridgeshire town had two of them. This year the police have raided at least 48 in the town. Detectives describe such places as 'sex prisons'.
'The problem of trafficking is far greater than officially recognised and can no longer be considered a big city problem,' said Johnson of Lovells.
In most cases, trafficked women enter the UK 'overtly', using forged visas, false travel documents or visas obtained through corruption or deception, usually from their traffickers.
Barton confirmed her group was aware of a growing number of women who were being prosecuted carrying false documents given to them by organised criminals.
The development comes amid fresh evidence that victims are getting younger and that girls are being smuggled on demand by UK-based paedophile rings.
Barton said: 'Young girls from west Africa and China are, for instance, orphaned at a very young age and sexually abused. Once they hit puberty, they are being brought over here and sold into prostitution. A lot of young women, as young as eight, are sexually abused and then sold here.' One recent case involved a 15-year-old Nigerian girl who was abandoned in England when a member of an international paedophile ring dumped her after years of sexual abusing the teenager.
When found, she had been so badly abused and starved she was almost dead. Medical checks at the asylum centre in the north of England she was left outside revealed she was pregnant. Interviews with the victim established she had been kept for years by paedophiles, a number of whom are thought to be British, in a Belgian home where she was starved, tortured and repeatedly raped.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
December 11, 2007 - 9:19PM
The prosecutor at the centre of the case in which six attackers escaped jail time for the gang rape of a 10-year-old in far-north Queensland has been stood aside, pending an investigation.
Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine tonight said the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions would investigate the conduct of Steve Carter, the senior legal officer responsible for Cape York matters in the DPP's Cairns chambers.
Court transcripts released today showed Mr Carter had described the 2006 incident as "childish experimentation" and consensual "in a general sense".
The child - who cannot be named - was gang-raped at the age of seven in Aurukun on Cape York in 2002, and was later put into foster care with a non-indigenous family in Cairns.
However, child safety officers in April 2006 returned her to Aurukun, where she was raped again at the age of 10.
Premier Anna Bligh today admitted the Child Safety Department had failed the girl.
"I think it is very important to understand, and I don't resile from the fact for one moment, the system clearly failed this little girl," Ms Bligh told reporters.
But she said the government took immediate action by disciplining the officers involved, moving the child, and improving child safety processes.
Ms Bligh could not give a reason for the officers' decision to return the girl to Aurukun, but said it should never have happened.
Cairns-based District Court judge Sarah Bradley did not record convictions against six teenage attackers and gave three others aged 17, 18 and 26 suspended sentences over the 2006 rape.
The state government is appealing the sentences and has ordered a review of around 75 sexual assault cases in Cape York over the past two years.
One senior child safety officer has been sacked and two others suspended for 12 months on full pay over the incident, but the two suspended officers are appealing the decision.
The girl is now in the care of the Child Safety Department away from Aurukun.
While the Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare declined to comment, her office today released transcripts of the court case.
They revealed that during the case, Mr Carter described the incident - in which the girl contracted a sexually transmitted disease - as "consensual sex".
"To the extent I can't say it was consensual in the legal sense, but in the other - in the general sense, the non-legal sense - yes, it was," Mr Carter told the court.
Mr Carter said the sex had been prearranged and the males had not forced themselves on the girl.
"... they're very naughty for doing what they're doing but it's really, in this case, it was a form of childish experimentation, rather than one child being prevailed upon by another," he said.
Mr Carter also told the court such incidents were not out of character in small, remote communities.
" ... children, females, have got to be - deserve - the same protection under the law in an Aboriginal or an indigenous community as they do in any other community," Mr Carter said.
"But sometimes things happen in a small community when children get together."
Hetty Johnston, founder of Bravehearts, said a judicial inquiry was needed.
"The prosecutor is there to defend the rights of the victims - that man is standing behind the wrong desk," Ms Johnston told AAP.
"This girl's life has been screwed up by a combination of the (child safety) department and the DPP."
Victim: Gang-Rape Cover-Up by U.S., Halliburton/KBR
KBR Told Victim She Could Lose Her Job If She Sought Help After Being Raped, She Says
By BRIAN ROSS, MADDY SAUER & JUSTIN ROOD
Dec. 10, 2007—
A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.
Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.
"Don't plan on working back in Iraq. There won't be a position here, and there won't be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.
"It felt like prison," says Jones, who told her story to ABC News as part of an upcoming "20/20" investigation. "I was upset; I was curled up in a ball on the bed; I just could not believe what had happened."
Finally, Jones says, she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas.
"I said, 'Dad, I've been raped. I don't know what to do. I'm in this container, and I'm not able to leave,'" she said. Her father called their congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.
"We contacted the State Department first," Poe told ABCNews.com, "and told them of the urgency of rescuing an American citizen" -- from her American employer.
Poe says his office contacted the State Department, which quickly dispatched agents from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to Jones' camp, where they rescued her from the container.
According to her lawsuit, Jones was raped by "several attackers who first drugged her, then repeatedly raped and injured her, both physically and emotionally."
Jones told ABCNews.com that an examination by Army doctors showed she had been raped "both vaginally and anally," but that the rape kit disappeared after it was handed over to KBR security officers.
A spokesperson for the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security told ABCNews.com he could not comment on the matter.
Over two years later, the Justice Department has brought no criminal charges in the matter. In fact, ABC News could not confirm any federal agency was investigating the case.
Legal experts say Jones' alleged assailants will likely never face a judge and jury, due to an enormous loophole that has effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of United States law.
"It's very troubling," said Dean John Hutson of the Franklin Pierce Law Center. "The way the law presently stands, I would say that they don't have, at least in the criminal system, the opportunity for justice."
Congressman Poe says neither the departments of State nor Justice will give him answers on the status of the Jones investigation.
Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.
Asked what reasons the departments gave for the apparent slowness of the probes, Poe sounded frustrated.
"There are several, I think, their excuses, why the perpetrators haven't been prosecuted," Poe told ABC News. "But I think it is the responsibility of our government, the Justice Department and the State Department, when crimes occur against American citizens overseas in Iraq, contractors that are paid by the American public, that we pursue the criminal cases as best as we possibly can and that people are prosecuted."
Since no criminal charges have been filed, the only other option, according to Hutson, is the civil system, which is the approach that Jones is trying now. But Jones' former employer doesn't want this case to see the inside of a civil courtroom.
KBR has moved for Jones' claim to be heard in private arbitration, instead of a public courtroom. It says her employment contract requires it.
In arbitration, there is no public record nor transcript of the proceedings, meaning that Jones' claims would not be heard before a judge and jury. Rather, a private arbitrator would decide Jones' case. In recent testimony before Congress, employment lawyer Cathy Ventrell-Monsees said that Halliburton won more than 80 percent of arbitration proceedings brought against it.
In his interview with ABC News, Rep. Poe said he sided with Jones.
"Air things out in a public forum of a courtroom," said Rep. Poe. "That's why we have courts in the United States."
In her lawsuit, Jones' lawyer, Todd Kelly, says KBR and Halliburton created a "boys will be boys" atmosphere at the company barracks which put her and other female employees at great risk.
"I think that men who are there believe that they live without laws," said Kelly. "The last thing she should have expected was for her own people to turn on her."
Halliburton, which has since divested itself of KBR, says it "is improperly named" in the suit.
In a statement, KBR said it was "instructed to cease" its own investigation by U.S. government authorities "because they were assuming sole responsibility for the criminal investigations."
"The safety and security of all employees remains KBR's top priority," it said in a statement. "Our commitment in this regard is unwavering."
Since the attacks, Jones has started a nonprofit foundation called the Jamie Leigh Foundation, which is dedicated to helping victims who were raped or sexually assaulted overseas while working for government contractors or other corporations.
"I want other women to know that it's not their fault," said Jones. "They can go against corporations that have treated them this way." Jones said that any proceeds from the civil suit will go to her foundation.
"There needs to be a voice out there that really pushed for change," she said. "I'd like to be that voice."
Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures
Monday, 10 December 2007
A pig farmer accused of being Canada's worst serial killer has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the deaths of six women.
Robert Willie' Pickton was on trial for the first six of 26 murder charges for the deaths of women, most of them prostitutes and drug addicts from a seedy Vancouver neighbourhood.
Pickton, 58, was found guilty of the murders of Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey, Brenda Wolfe, Andrea Joesbury and Georgina Papin. He will be sentenced tomorrow.
The defence acknowledged that their remains were found on Pickton's farm outside Vancouver, but denied he was responsible for their deaths.
Two sisters of victim Georgina Papin screamed "No!" when the jury foreman first stood up and said "not guilty" on first-degree murder.
But later said they were pleased he was convicted on the second-degree charge.
Pickton listened to the verdict with his head bowed and later smirked.
He will receive life in prison and will not be eligible for parole for at least 10 years.
The jury had no recommendation on whether to extend that 10-year period.
The jury of seven men and five women took 10 days to reach a verdict. They had the option of finding Pickton guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter or not guilty on any of the six counts.
Second-degree murder is a lesser charge that means a murder was not planned.
First-degree murder, which means a murder was planned, also carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison and does not offer parole eligibility for 25 years.
Family members and friends gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the courthouse in New Westminster, British Columbia, after the verdicts. A poem and a song written about the women was played. Some sobbed.
Publication date 10/12/07
Thursday, 6 December 2007
CONVICTED wife killer Nat Fraser was dramatically sent back to jail today after spending more than 18 months on bail.
The 48-year-old was ordered back behind bars when his appeal against conviction came to an end this afternoon.
He will remain in prison until judges issue a written judgment on his appeal, which could take several weeks.
Fraser is challenging his conviction for murdering his estranged wife Arlene more than nine years ago.
Three senior judges at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh made the unexpected decision after the Crown asked for his bail not to be continued.
Mrs Fraser was 33 when she disappeared from her home in New Elgin, Moray, on April 28 1998. Her body has never been found.
He was jailed for life in 2003 but was freed in May last year, pending his full appeal, after the court heard the grounds of appeal in his case were “compelling”.
Members of Mrs Fraser’s family, who have attended every day of his four-week appeal, spoke of their surprise at the move today.
This article: http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1907032007
Last updated: 06-Dec-07 13:49 GMT
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
SEVEN women in Edinburgh have been identified as human trafficking victims as part of a UK-wide police operation.
Most of the women uncovered since Pentameter 2 began on October 2 were from the Far East - mainly Thailand and Malaysia.
The majority had travelled to Britain to pay off a family debt and ended up working in the Capital's sex industry.
In one case reported today, a Romanian woman was repeatedly raped by human traffickers on the way to London, before being taken to work in an Edinburgh brothel.
Pentameter 2, the UK's biggest ever human trafficking operation, is now being extended into the New Year.
Meanwhile, a photo gallery to raise awareness about the issue has been set up at Edinburgh Airport.
It is hoped the Slave Britain exhibition will also help airport workers spot signs and alert authorities.
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
by Iain Lundy Glasgow Evening Times
THE growth in Glasgow's night-time economy and lap dancing culture were today blamed for the horrific toll of rapes and sex attacks on women.
Chief Inspector Brian Connel said a lack of a co-ordinated transport strategy when the pubs and clubs come out is making the city a more dangerous place and leaving women vulnerable to attack.
He also agreed with leading women's groups that lap dancing and television images were adding to the problem.
City's 2007 record of rape shameFEBRUARY A 15-year-old girl was raped in Ferguslie Park, Paisley. A 19-year-old man was arrested and has appeared at Paisley Sheriff Court.
APRIL An 18-year-old was raped while waiting for an early-morning bus to work in Cross Arthurlie Street at Barrhead, East Renfrewshire. A man grabbed her and dragged her into a lane. A 33-year-old man was arrested and has appeared at Paisley Sheriff Court.
Reader PollDoes lapdancing encourage sex attacks?
JUNE A woman was raped in Glasgow city centre just yards from clubbers making their way home. The 30-year-old was grabbed from behind and dragged into a lane. She was sitting on a wall at the BP garage in Elmbank Street, between Bath Lane and Elmbank Crescent just moments after leaving a club on Sauchiehall Street. No-one has been arrested.
JULY A dreadlocked gang of four raped a woman in Glasgow's West End. The 30-year-old mum-of-one was attacked while walking her dog in Yorkhill. The four were described as being of AfroCaribbean appearance. The victim was pushed to the ground and held down by two attackers, while a third, who was more than 6ft tall with waist-length dreadlocks, carried out the first assault. The three other men then also raped her in the square, which is next to wine bars, art galleries and tenement flats. No arrests have been made.
AUGUST A teenage girl was dragged off a busy street and raped in a daylight attack. The 16-year-old was walking along Dowanfield Road, Cumbernauld, when a man dragged her into shrubbery near Our Lady's High School and raped her. A 27-year-old man was arrested.
AUGUST A woman reported being raped in Glasgow. The 38-year-old said she tried to flag down drivers as she was chased by her attacker but nobody stopped to help her and she was dragged into bushes near Glasgow Royal Infirmary. A man, 39, was arrested in connection with the crime.Mr Connel spoke out as new figures obtained by the Evening Times revealed there were 192 rapes reported to Strathclyde Police between January and the end of July this year - only one fewer than the same period last year.
Detection rates rose slightly with 128 solved compared with 124 last year.
The number of serious sex attacks dropped from 54 to 41 - but only 16 have been detected this year as opposed to 30 in 2006.
Mr Connel, Strathclyde Police's force crime prevention officer, called for more action to get people safely and quickly home after a night out - and pleaded with young people to be more responsible on safety issues.
He said: "It is easy for a young person to end up with a stranger on a night out, especially after too much alcohol.
"There are thousands upon thousands of people in the city centre at the weekend and the transport is just not sufficient to get them all out. It is getting better but a lot has to be done.
"I don't think the culture helps and people are quite prepared to be irresponsible. It is all about enjoyment without a thought about what the consequences are.
"We are not asking folk to regulate their lives to the nth degree - but think a bit ahead, have money on your phone, don't get lost, stay with your friends. It is really simple stuff.
"When people are under the influence their skills in dealing with these kind of things are decreased dramatically."
The statistics come after a string of rapes and sexual assaults on women in and around Glasgow in the last few weeks - including the terrifying gang-rape of a 30-year-old woman near Yorkhill Hospital.
Women's groups believe many more victims are unwilling or too afraid to tell the police and the true picture is more grim than statistics suggest.
Diane Travers, personal safety tutor with Glasgow-based Wise Women, said she was concerned about what she called the "lapdance culture" in Glasgow city centre.
She added: "Our current culture of lapdancing clubs is worrying, especially hearing so many young men talk about it.
"There is a connection between lapdancing - which is sexual exploitation of women - and rape.
"It is saying that women are there to be watched and used and that they are there for entertainment."
Ms Travers claimed the statistics were the tip of the iceberg because so many women who were raped by someone they knew did not report the attacks.
She said: "It is easier to report an attack by a stranger but they are less inclined to talk about a friend, partner, boyfriend or someone in their family.
"It is very chilling to realise rapists are people who appear like normal everyday guys that we talk to in the pub or at home."
Mr Connel agreed lapdance culture and many television images were adding to the problem.
He said: "It is all about exploitation and it is all about behaviour I would say is unacceptable but is creating the wrong type of role models."
Sandy Brindley, national co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, said the attitude of rape perpetrators had changed little over the years.
"There are prehistoric attitudes to rape and sexual assault in this city that we are having to challenge," she said.
"You wouldn't think it was 2007. Things should be much more enlightened but it feels like it is the same attitude since the 1970s when rape crisis centres had to be set up in the first place."
We'll see what happens!!!
Fraser's defence has featured the issue of his wife's ringsNat Fraser's defence team has rubbished claims a jury would still have found him guilty had evidence about his wife Arlene's rings been available at trial.
Fraser, 48, was jailed for life in 2003 after being found guilty of murdering his wife.
Her body was never found after she went missing in Elgin, Moray, in 1998.
Peter Gray QC said fresh evidence of two police officers cast doubt on the Crown's main theory about the murder, meaning it was not a fair trial.
The prosecution case had included claims that Fraser placed Arlene's engagement, wedding and eternity rings in the bathroom of her house several days after she vanished.
Evidence has since emerged that two police officers may have seen the rings in Arlene's house shortly after she disappeared.
Fraser's defence claims he suffered a miscarriage of justice because the advocate depute in the trial made Arlene's rings the "cornerstone" of his case.
The Crown has argued that the evidence against Fraser was "overwhelming".
Arlene Fraser went missing from Elgin in 1998
The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh earlier heard John Beckett QC, for the Crown, claim the officers' evidence would have helped the prosecutor.
However, Mr Gray said it was "wholly artificial" for appeal judges to consider what the Crown might have done had they been aware of the evidence.
"If the cornerstone of the Crown case has been on an inaccurate premise then, in my submission, it is extremely difficult to see how the appellant can have had a fair trial," said Mr Gray.
"This is a very unusual case because the Crown proceeded on a basis on which it now recognises was inaccurate, and in the context of a fresh evidence appeal it would be wholly artificial to start looking at what may have happened if the Crown had presented the case in a different way, because that didn't happen."
The judges will deliver a decision on the appeal later
Monday, 3 December 2007
Advocating for women who experience domestic abuse can allow women to look at the decisions they make in their lives - Scotland needs independent advocates.
Pioneering scheme cuts domestic violence
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Published: 03 December 2007
A pioneering scheme to tackle domestic violence, which affects 1.5 million women each year in the UK, has cut the incidence of assault and injury to women by two thirds, according to the first independent evaluation of its impact.
The £1m scheme, half funded by the Home Office, uses special case workers to co-ordinate services aimed at keeping the victim safe in her own home and has been so successful that it is being rolled out across the country.
Every year more than 100 women die at the hands of their partners, and 150,000 suffer physical or sexual assault, psychiatric harm, or are driven to suicide. More than 600,000 report incidents of abuse to the police, but thousands more suffer in silence.
The new approach involves identifying women at highest risk, using a 20-point checklist of risk factors, and appointing independent domestic violence advocates (IDVAs) to support them. The advocates co-ordinate monthly meetings of local services to protect the victims and help them to rebuild their lives.
Results from the first eight pilot areas to be evaluated showed that after six months, in at least 90 out of 140 cases (65 per cent), the violence had stopped. The monthly Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (Maracs) have dealt with 8,000 cases this year, which is set to double to 15,000 next year. Research shows that 70 per cent of women who have been through the Marac process were still safe six months later.
The scheme is run by a charity, Co-ordinated Action on Domestic Abuse (CAADA), set up by Diana Barran, a former hedge fund manager, in 2004.
Ms Barran has the enthusiastic backing of Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, and was last week awarded a Beacon prize, one of Britain's top awards for philanthropy.
She said: "The research shows that the model works. When we talk about violence in this context we are talking about a knife being held to a victim's throat. There is nothing pink and fluffy about this.
"For too long victims of domestic abuse have been chucked from pillar to post because it is a problem that crosses so many boundaries – police, health, housing, social services. Women's refuges have kept victims safe, but lives have also been lost because women didn't want to go into them, or they were full or too far away.
"Our objective is to keep women in their homes but safe and supported. We aim to provide a GP-style of service so that wherever you go for help you know exactly what you are going to get. Currently victims of domestic abuse who go to a local agency get a completely different response in one area from the next."
A national training programme will have 360 advocates in place around the UK by the spring, enough to deal with 30,000 high-risk cases annually.
The largest project is at Worthing, West Sussex, where 10 IDVAs are attached to the accident and emergency departments of Worthing and Crawley hospitals. Detection of domestic violence rose from one case a year to one a day after A&E staff began routinely asking women how they were injured. The scheme is being rolled out to hospitals at Chichester and Haywards Heath, and the number of advocates more than doubled to 25.
Ms Barran said: "IDVAs are the catalyst that make everything else work. We estimate the cost of providing a national service at £50m, which would save £5 for every £1 spent. But it is the biggest human need for which it is most difficult to raise money."
'You don't have to put up with it' - Tessa, victim
Tessa was with her five-year-old daughter, Maisie, when her partner came at her in the living room with a knife.
"He had attacked me lots of times but this time I thought he was going to kill me. He picked me up and flung me over the sofa because I wouldn't go to a party with him. I tried to protect myself and he stabbed me through the hand. I went to casualty and I told them I had had an accident cutting meat – even though I am a vegetarian. That's the problem – there was no help so you tell lies. You put up and shut up."
She had met Roy, a plumber who played rugby and boxed for charity, in a pub in Manchester in 1995. She said: "It was an on-off relationship, full of violence and nastiness. I did try to get away, but he used to turn up at my house and I couldn't get rid of him. He was on drugs and would smash the windows to get in."
The police did nothing and the domestic violence helpline was useless, she said. Then social workers threatened to take her children into care. "That was really scary. I felt trapped – there was nothing I could do."
Eventually her local Women's Aid branch put her in touch with an advocate, trained by CAADA, who organised police protection, helped her to start court proceedings and found her a new place to live. "They really helped me. I would not have had the go in me to carry on without them. I want people to realise that you can get out of situations like mine. You don't have to put up with it."
GERRI PEEV POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
MEN in Britain believe they can get away with rape, David Cameron claimed yesterday as he accused the Labour government of presiding over a moral collapse in society.
The Conservative Party leader pledged extra help for victims and stronger punishments for rapists, calling for sex education to include emphasis on the need for consent.
While the figures he cited for England and Wales showed a conviction rate of just 5.1 per cent of all complainants, in Scotland it is 1 percentage point lower. The Scottish Government has already pledged a new Sexual Offences Bill to tackle the low conviction rate.
In a speech to the Conservative Women's Organisation in London, Mr Cameron called for a cultural change. "Studies have shown that as many as one in two young men believe there are some circumstances when it's OK to force a woman to have sex," he said. "To my mind, this is an example of moral collapse."
The Tory leader warned that society has become increasingly "sexualised" over the past decade, during which time treating women as sex objects has become viewed as "cool". He also called for compulsory sex education in schools to drive home the message that sex without consent is a criminal offence.
"And what about when the perpetrator is convicted?" he continued. "The average custodial sentence handed to rapists in England and Wales has fallen ... to around 80 months. Given all this, we have a situation where rapists think they can get away with it, while victims wonder what's the point of pursuing the criminal process."
Citing the case of Lindsay Armstrong, 16, who committed suicide after seeing her attacker convicted of rape in a trial at which she was asked to show the court the underwear she had been wearing at the time of the assault, Mr Cameron said more support was also vital.
The Labour Party hit back at criticism of the low conviction rates for rape. A spokesman pointed out that the Conservatives - including Mr Cameron and David Davis, the shadow home secretary - had voted against allowing police to take DNA samples from a person arrested for a recordable offence as part of the Criminal Justice Bill. Since the law came into force in 2004, 90 rapists had been convicted, the spokesman said.
Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, insisted the government was taking action, including providing new centres to provide medical care and counselling to victims, putting in place specialist police officers and prosecutors and trialling the use of "independent sexual violence advisers" in 38 areas.
Sally Ireland, senior legal officer at the campaign group Justice warned against engineering conviction rates upwards by making trials unfair.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it was awaiting a report from the Scottish Law Commission before it published a final sexual offences bill. "No victim should be dissuaded from coming forward because they fear that the law is unclear or that their experience will not be taken seriously," he said.
SCOTLAND has one of the world's lowest conviction rates for rape, a statistic which has been repeatedly condemned by campaigners.
Out of 975 serious sex crimes reported to the police last year, only 38 - or one in 25 - culminated in guilty verdicts. This translates to a conviction rate of 3.9 per cent.
The all-time low compares with a 5 per cent conviction rate in 2005.
The number of reported rape cases has soared by 300 per cent over the past three decades. In 1997-98, there were 596 rapes reported, while in 2004-5 the number was 900.
Rapists are also almost ten times more likely to be found guilty in some parts of Scotland compared with others, according to figures released earlier this year.
Grampian had a conviction rate of less than 1 per cent, while at the other end of the scale the neighbouring Northern Constabulary area achieved 8.7 per cent.
Sunday, 2 December 2007
Catherine Thomson, 26, was stabbed in the jugular vein at her family home in Moodiesburn, North Lanarkshire.
John Campbell attacked Ms Thomson - his brother's girlfriend - while on leave from Castle Huntly prison in 2005.
A fatal accident inquiry ruled that a risk assessment should have been carried out before he was given leave.
Sheriff Thomas Millar ruled Ms Thomson's death could have been avoided.
Campbell was arrested and later plunged to his death from an upper gallery at Glasgow's Barlinnie prison, in an apparent suicide.
Lawyer Cameron Fyfe said Ms Thomson's family were taking legal action against the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).
Mr Fyfe, who is acting for the family, said: "We take the view that the determination from the sheriff gives us the basis to proceed on the basis that the prison service was negligent in allowing Campbell out without a proper risk assessment.
"The family really don't care about the compensation money, they haven't even asked me how much they could get.
"What they want, in their words, is for some justice to come out of this and for the prison service to pay for the mistake that they made."
Campbell, 34, was serving an eight-year sentence for two charges of assault to severe injury and permanent disfigurement when he was allowed out of prison on short unsupervised leave.
He had initially been placed on high supervision level when he was sentenced in August 2002.
In 2004 his supervision level was wrongly reduced to low, which meant he was eligible for unsupervised home leave when he was transferred to Castle Huntley prison.
Sheriff Millar found that officers there had assumed Campbell was of low risk to the community because he was on a low supervision level.He added they failed to carry out a fresh risk assessment on Campbell because they assumed one had been carried out elsewhere and were simply "rubber-stamping" it.
The police suspect Arthur McElhill of setting fire to his house and killing himself, his partner Lorraine McGovern and their five children - Caroline, Sean, Belinda, Clodagh and James. May the family find peace
Updated:16:45, Saturday December 01, 2007Children weep for lost classmates
Several hundred people attended requiem mass at the
Arthur McElhill, 39, his partner Lorraine McGovern, 30 and their children - Caroline, 13, Sean, seven, Bellina, four, Clodagh, 18 months and James nine month - died together when fire engulfed their three-bedroom, end of terrace house.
Police are treating the deaths as murder and suspect Mr McElhill of starting the fire after they found petrol had been sprinkled around the house and set alight.
The McElhill and McGovern families disagreed for a fortnight over where the family should be buried.
Eventually it was decided a single service would be held for the family but that Mr McElhill would be buried separately from his family.
He will be buried in Ederney,
Speaking during the service, parish priest Monsignor Joseph Donnelly referred back to the Omagh bombing saying a community may have experience of tragedy but could never become accustomed to it.
He said: "To lose an entire family unit in one instance is unimaginable. It is a devastation for the families immediately connected. It is a loss so total that words fail to describe the immensity of the events."
Looking down at the five white coffins of the children - each with a single white carnation upon it - and flanked by the coffins of their parents, he added: "The visual impact of what lies before us leaves us in no doubt about the horrible reality."
Children from St Conor's primary school, next door to the fire blackened house in
Sombre faced, many wept for their lost classmates. So too did the pupils from the Sacred Heart college which the oldest child attended.
At long last someone is getting that domestic abuse is about the abusive man - why do the women and children have to leave and live in fear? When a man is charged with domestic abuse and is bailed to stay away from his ex-partner he needs to stay in a bail hostel - if he is a persistent offender he needs to be remanded. Perpetrators need to be held responsible and accountable for their behaviour as it is their problem - there will need to be a huge injection into funding it is imperative as Lily Greenan says in this article that women and children's safety is paramount. Best of luck Cheif Constable House - hope you can win the Glasgow Council over to your way of thinking and convince the Scottish Government to pay for it. Working with men costs quite a lot of money and their needs to be parity for the victims - the women and children, they need resources too. But Another Witch to Burn is behind this initiative, hope it happens..
Dec 2 2007 By Norman Silvester
Husbands Face Time In Hostels To Keep Them Away From Victims
WIFE-BEATERS will be forced to live in hostels far from their victims in a domestic violence crackdown.
The measure was revealed by Strathclyde Police's new chief constable, Steve House, yesterday.
He is making domestic violence a priority after taking charge of Scotland's biggest force and says it is wrong for battered women and their children to be forced to hide in refuges.
Mr House wants to turn the tables and put the wife-beaters there instead.
The dad of three said: "Domestic violence is on the increase. A woman will be the victim an average of 20 times before she calls the police.
"Normally, when a woman is the victim of domestic violence, she ends up in a refuge.
"I would like to see more refuges and hostels for women. But the last thing you want is the victim and her children taken out of the home because of the disruption to schooling and family life.
"We would prefer the accused be made to go to a hostel and the victim stay in the family home."
Mr House revealed men who assault their wives and partners will be routinely kept in custody until they can be taken to court.
They will be sent to live in hostels - paid for by the police and local authorities - until their trial.
The Glasgow-born officer added: "An average of 45 per cent of attacks in the home happen in front of a child and that child will often go on to commit acts of crime and violence.
"Evidence shows teenagers who commit violence are usually from homes where they have seen domestic violence."
The hostel plan is part of a raft of measures which include allowing police to accept third-party reporting of domestic violence, where terrified victims won't come forward. The moves also propose the creation of "Cocoon Watch" schemes, where neighbours are encouraged to report suspected domestic violence to police.
Victims will also be given panic alarms and their attackers forced to attend anger-management classes.
The plans have been welcomed by women's rights campaigners and politicians.
Jean Cumming from support agency Crisis said: "I'm delighted the chief constable is introducing the measures and hope every other force will follow suit.
"We've been campaigning to encourage authorities to take more radical action to tackle domestic abuse because it has such a knock-on effect across society.
"Providing bail hostels is particularly welcome as it will give an abused family a breathing space."
The scheme will be similar to the estimated 100 bail hostels in England, where about 2000 alleged offenders await trail.
'The last thing you want is the victim and kids moved from home'
Saturday, 1 December 2007
Rape inquiry police make arrest
Police investigating a rape in a North Lanarkshire village have arrested a man.
A 15-year-old girl was allegedly attacked in Banton, near Kilsyth, on Tuesday night while she was out jogging.
A 31-year-old man has been arrested and is being detained in custody in connection with the alleged incident, a Strathclyde Police statement said.
The man is expected to appear in court on Monday.
The female victim, who is understood to be in her late twenties, was reportedly raped by a group of Spanish men as she made her way back to the city-centre hotel where she had been staying. She is believed to have become separated from friends minutes before the attack on Wednesday, the night before the European fixture.
A spokesman for the British Consulate confirmed they had assisted a Scottish woman in connection with an alleged gang rape.
But while Scottish fans have accused Spanish police of heavyhanded tactics, Grampian Police believe known troublemakers who associate themselves with the Pittodrie club travelled to the game with the intention of causing violence.
However, there were no reports of any arrests amongst the
An estimated 6,000
At least one fan, Ian Bremner, a father of two, was taken to hospital during clashes in the Spanish capital.
Friends of the 38-year-old project manager, originally from Buckie, Moray, who now works in
Lindsay Bartlet, 45, who was with Mr Bremner at the time, said: "It was way over the top for the police to charge at us like that; it was completely unprovoked."
It is understood Mr Bremner was due to be discharged from the
John Morgan, Aberdeen FC's head of security, said he witnessed a child of about ten being hit with a baton, and also saw women being struck.
Superintendent Adrian Watson, of Grampian Police, said: "There was a clash between fans and the Spanish police, but the trouble was limited to a small number of troublemakers. This small group travelled to
Four Grampian Police officers were in
Dave Macdermid, a spokesman for Aberdeen FC, said the club was to write to Uefa.
He said: "There is no doubt there were problems with violence, but it was limited to a small number of people.
"Most of the fans behaved impeccably and I would like to thank them for that. Unfortunately, there was a small number that did not and that is where the violence stemmed from."
The Spanish media reported yesterday that at least 17 people had suffered injuries during the trouble, which saw riot police try to control the crowd after flares, bottles and other objects were thrown.
Friday, 30 November 2007
YESTERDAY a newspaper billboard stopped me in my tracks outside Central Station. “Body in garden is Vicky Hamilton”, it read.
Another day, another dead girl - given the high-profile Angelika Kluk murder trial last year, this case will no doubt hold the media spotlight for a few days or weeks before slipping back down the news agenda.
I didn’t know Vicky Hamilton, but that doesn’t matter now. She’s lain dead for over a decade, buried in an unmarked grave hundreds of miles from the
Vicky was the same age as me and we grew up some 20 miles apart, in similar small towns in the East of Scotland.
It could have been me standing at a bus stop that evening, eating chips. It could have been my sister, it could have been any one of my school friends.
It didn’t matter - she was simply a nameless, faceless young woman. Any young woman would do.
After her disappearance, the family and police ran a high profile appeal for information.
Vicky’s face appeared on posters, on leaflets in the hairdressers, on milk cartons.
A stark warning to girls and women in Bathgate, in Bonnyrigg, anywhere - you’re not safe.
Stay at home. Don’t talk to strangers. These streets are not your streets.
This case, of course, will have a particularly salacious appeal to the media - an innocent schoolgirl, pictured immaculate in her uniform - an evil paedo, the ‘bad man’ we had already learned to fear.
We live in a society where, despite the revulsion we feel for men like Tobin, men’s violence against women is normalized and accepted as inevitable.
Murders like Vicky Hamilton’s will attract media coverage because she fits the profile of a ‘good’ victim.
If she was Black, or a sex worker, or hitch-hiking, or in some way ‘asking for it’, then it would be a different story.
Ditto the respectable family man who beats his wife and abuses his daughters - he’s not the bogeyman hiding in the park, to be profiled on Crimewatch and splashed across the tabloids.
Strip away the media spin and it’s the same story: man murders woman. Not, as David Cameron would have us believe, because of the ‘moral slide’ of society, but because we live in a patriarchal society where unequal power relations are about more than just class relations - they are about men’s power over women.
That’s a problem that can’t ever be solved by simply locking up the ‘bad’ men, or even bringing back the death penalty.
It’s a problem that needs a transformation of society - so that women are as free to stand at bus stops at night as men are; so that for once in our lives, we can be free from fear.
GEMMA FRASER (email@example.com)
MURDERED schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton was finally laid to rest at an emotional service today, nearly 17 years after she disappeared.
Family and friends gathered to remember Vicky, who was 15-years old, when she was last seen waiting for a bus in Bathgate in February 1991.
Her remains were uncovered at a terraced house in
An eerie silence fell on the picturesque
On one side the flowers were arranged to say “Vicky”, and on the other to say “sister”.
Michael Hamilton arrived in the first of the family hearses, accompanied by other family members. Vicky’s siblings Sharon, Lindsay and Lee, arrived shortly afterwards in a separate hearse and entered the church arm-in-arm, each carrying a red rose.
Inside, the Rev Geoffrey Smart said a “battle against evil” had been lost on the day Vicky died.
He described Vicky’s murder as a “cruel, callous and evil act.”
He said: “We come to remember Vicky as she was – a young girl with her whole life ahead of her, who was taken from us by this terrible act of evil.
The church was completely packed out with mourners, with all the pews filled and people standing in every available space.
Vicky’s siblings Sharon, Lee and Lindsay were sitting together at the front of the church. Her fatherMichael was at the front on the other side of the aisle.
The church organist was playing a version of I Will Always Love You, by Whitney Houston. The minister continued: “Vicky was a much loved daughter, sister, granddaughter, half sister and niece.
“She has been sorely missed by all these relatives all and the rest of her family and friends over these years.”
Vicky’s family said her disappearance had “ripped the family apart”, but were comforted by the fact they could now lay her to rest.
The minister added: “Her family were robbed of seeing Vicky grow up as all their hopes and expectations for Vicky’s future were taken from them.
“The judicial process will go on and help give some peace to all who mourn Vicky’s tragic and distressing death.
“As Christians, we are meant to have a forgiving spirit, yet forgiveness is a two-way street and we have seen no signs of contrition either for the evil deed or for putting a family through the hell of these last 16 years of uncertainty, worry and fear, which also caused the untimely death of Vicky’s mum.
“So today all we can do is thank God that throughout this time of uncertainty and fear Vicky was safely in His loving hands.
“Yet before this Vicky was forced to face something that nobody should ever have to face, especially a young, vulnerable teenage girl.”
However, he added: “We must not dwell on this today, but try to see beyond its darkness and focus on the light of our Christian belief, which tells us that Vicky is safe and secure in heaven, together with her granny and her mum, in order that God’s gracious love might take from us any feelings which might undermine our own lives.
“When we are able to do this we stop such evil from gaining any kind of victory over us, as we unite in God’s love.”
A young man dressed in full military uniform and ceremonial white gloves stood outside the church to greet mourners, including Vicky’s uncle Eric Hamilton.
Mourners laid wreaths and flowers on the grass outside before entering the church while people stopped in the street to watch.
The minister said: “Today, let us all find resolution and peace as we give Vicky her Christian service and burial in order that you can then move on in your lives.
“Jesus brought the light of God’s love to humanity in many different and powerful ways when He walked this earth, and through His Spirit He still does this today.”
He paid tribute to the “bright bubbly girl” who was a popular pupil at
The cortege then passed her old house on its way to
At Vicky’s graveside, Mr Smart said: “We gather to commit Vicky’s body to the ground, knowing that after her death some 16 years ago, Vicky’s immortal soul lived on in God’s eternal Kingdom of love.
‘The souls of the innocents are in God’s hands, no torment will touch them, for they are at peace.
“Almighty and ever loving God, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ longed for us to know how we should live and love and grow, and chose a young person to show us some glimpses here of heaven.
“When youngsters suffer pain and cry and lose their hold on life and die, while we must grieve and wonder why Christ keeps them safe in heaven.
“So we give thanks to God for Vicky, now silent to the world, yet all these years, with her hand in hand in Christ’s, her Lord, and with her mum and her granny, Vicky has lived on in heaven.
“Lord, tell Vicky how we’ll always care, and miss the years we longed to share, until in answer to our prayer, we meet Vicky again in heaven.”
Vicky’s remains were found alongside those of 18-year-old Dinah McNicol, from Essex, buried in the garden of a house in
Thursday, 29 November 2007
By Jonathan Brown and James Macintyre
Published: 29 November 2007
Fifteen years after the brutal murder of Rachel Nickel on Wimbledon Common shocked a nation and threw the one-time suspect Colin Stag into the limelight, police have announced they are charging another man for the killing amid fresh hope the case could finally be solved.
Robert Napper, 41, will appear at City of Westminster magistrates' court on Tuesday, Scotland Yard said, charged with sexually assaulting and stabbing to death Ms Nickell in broad daylight as she walked with her two-year-old son.
Hilary Bradfield, of the Crown Prosecution Service's Serious Casework Unit, said the new charges were brought after a "painstaking" review of the case. "As the investigation has developed, I have been carefully examining and assessing the evidence," she said. "It has been a painstaking process and alongside the police we have considered all aspects of the case in detail.
"This week, we have reached a decision that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and have authorised the police to charge [Mr Napper]."
Scotland Yard would only say: "Robert Napper, 4
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Rape, it would seem, has become a "political football": so says Vera Baird, the solicitor general. She was referring to David Cameron's recent speech, in which he said that his party was committed to challenging the appallingly low conviction rate.
Baird, who is due to announce reforms to the laws surrounding rape, understands the issue. Ten years ago, I coordinated a scheme in West Yorkshire in conjunction with the CPS, to deliver specialist training to prosecutors in all aspects of sexual assault. Baird, who was at that time a practicing criminal barrister, delivered sessions during the course. She spoke of the myths and misunderstandings surrounding rape, such as there being a typical victim and perpetrator, and also about the ways in which women are blamed for "bringing it on themselves" if they had any physical contact with her rapist before the attack.
Baird went down extremely well with the prosecutors. She told them that in order to secure more convictions, they had to be at least as well equipped with all the facts of the case, and of the research around rape, as the defence. Baird certainly cares about rape and its consequences.
Now here is the problem. The government can try all the tweaking of laws possible, and go out on a limb to introduce measures that may dispel myths held by judge and jury, and it might help a bit. It can clarify, and re-clarify the issues of consent, and attempt to stop the introduction of the previous sexual history of complainants. Such measures, however, will only be successful if rigorously applied by the judge, and adhered to by the jury.
In 2003, I was part of a research team at the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, looking at the effectiveness of the restrictions in allowing previous sexual history as part of the defence in rape trials. Much of the time, the defence snuck such evidence in without the prosecution or judge even noticing, or applied to have it heard and succeeded.
During breaks in the trial, I heard both prosecution and defence lawyers joke with each other about the complainant, her evidence, and in one instance, her underwear (which was being displayed as an exhibit). Outside of the court, during one case involving a 15-year-old complainant and an adult man, so-called specially trained police officers were having a laugh about the sexual positions described by the defendant during his evidence, all within earshot of the complainant's family. Like all the other cases I observed, the defendant was acquitted.
Time after time, I observed, both in CPS case files and in court, the police did not gather evidence at the scene, the CPS were reluctant to proceed to trial because the complainant had some sort of relationship with the defendant, and judges did not ensure the law was properly applied.
There is no doubt that reports in the press about so-called false allegations of rape have increased dramatically, to the point where much of the general public believes that most women "make it up".
There is little point in telling juries at rape trials about the psychological impact of rape, as Baird may well propose, if the jury does not consider any act to be "real rape" unless a man jumps out and grabs a virgin nun and ravishes her in the bushes, while holding a knife to her throat and wearing a black mask. Any reform to the current law will fail unless the government runs a massive awareness campaign, along the same lines of those to deter drink driving and smoking. If it were to do that, and educate the public about the realities of rape, by the time they sit on rape trials as jurors, people might just understand that all rape is "real rape". Baird, as I said earlier, cares about rape. If she could persuade the Treasury to spend some serous money on public education, we would undoubtedly see a significant rise in the numbers of men committing this hideous crime convicted.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
IAN SWANSON SCOTTISH POLITICAL EDITOR (
DOMESTIC abuse in Edinburgh has soared by 11 per cent in a year, according to new figures published today. A total of 5784 incidents of domestic abuse were reported to police in the Capital in 2006-07, compared with 5178 the previous year. The increase is higher than the seven per cent rise recorded in the rest of Scotland.
Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell claimed the rise in the reporting of domestic abuse showed more people were recognising it was unacceptable.
But he said the figures were the tip of the iceberg and showed there was more work still to do. Across Scotland, the statistics showed recorded incidents of domestic abuse rose from 45,812 in 2005-06 to 48,801 in 2006-07.
Separate findings from the 2006 Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey, also published today, showed only one-in-five victims of abuse by a partner had reported the incident to police.
Mr Maxwell said: "It is deplorable that male violence against women, through crimes such as rape or domestic abuse, continues to devastate many lives. The rise in the reporting of incidents shows that while we have made progress in changing attitudes and encouraging women to report domestic abuse, there is still a lot more work to do in tackling this problem."
He said the Scottish Government's campaign: "Domestic abuse, there's no excuse", had succeeded in increasing awareness of the issue. "More people now recognise that all forms of domestic abuse are wrong," he said.
"While many women are seeking help from support services such as the Domestic Abuse Helpline and Scottish Women's Aid, and more women are reporting incidents to the police, this new research also shows that many are not.
"It's important that we do all we can to encourage people to report incidents so we can know the true extent of this problem and ensure that perpetrators are properly punished."
Community safety spokesman for the Conservatives, John Lamont described today's figures as shocking.
He said: "To see less than half of all incidents being recorded as a crime is dreadful.
"The fact that an increasing number of cases - 57 per cent - involve known repeat victimisation shows we are not doing enough to get abusive partners out of abusive relationships.
"In many ways this is often the worst form of abuse, as the abused partner often feels trapped in a relationship - sometimes unable or unwilling to ask for help.
"We all have a duty to play our part, as family, friends or neighbours to help mend this part of our broken society.
"Our social and voluntary services need support to help victims of domestic abuse and the state must reflect society's abhorrence of abusers in the way it pursues, prosecutes and sentences these people. Domestic abuse must not be the hidden crime that shames 21st century Scotland."
Monday, 26 November 2007
Man guilty of abusing young girls
Mackie admitted abusing the girls in a police interview A man from Cumbernauld has been convicted of a series of sexual offences against two young girls over a 15 year period.
A jury at Airdrie Sheriff Court found John Mackie, 50, guilty of six charges of using lewd and libidinous behaviour and one of sexual assault.
The offences took place at homes in Glasgow and Cumbernauld between February 1991 and July 2006.
Sentence was deferred until January and Mackie was remanded in custody.
The court heard that one of the girls was abused between the ages of eight and 17, while the other, who suffered from learning difficulties, was abused between the ages of 10 and 15.
During the trial the first girl, now aged 16, gave evidence to a closed court via a CCTV link.
The second girl, who is now 24, spoke in open court. She said: "He gave me love bites on the neck and I was embarrassed to go to school. Teachers at that time did contact social work. "At first the abuse would happen about three times a month then it stepped up to once a week until I was about 13."
A taped police interview with Mackie was played to the jury. In it he said: "Why I did it, I haven't a clue, but I remember abusing the two girls over a number of years. I was drunk, I don't know why it happened. " However, when questioned in the witness box the accused denied the abuse. Sheriff Morag Galbraith said: "Given the very serious nature of the charges I doubt whether my powers are strong enough and I'm considering remitting you to the High Court for sentence." Mackie was placed on the sex offenders register.
Svetlana Orlova had no idea why she had been invited on to the daytime television show and she was shocked to find herself face to face with the man who had beaten her for years.
She was further stunned when he produced an engagement ring and proposed. Looking deeply uncomfortable, she shook her head.
The public rebuff cost her her life. Within days she had been stabbed to death and her former lover was under arrest for murder.
Now ministers in Spain are to hold crisis talks with broadcasters as the nation searches its soul over its trashy television culture.
The truth about Jerry Springer
Ricardo Navarro, 30, had told Patricia’s Daily Show, which has an audience of 2 million, that he and Ms Orlova had broken up because of a dispute over money. Ms Orlova contested that, saying: “There were many other things”, but without elaborating or mentioning that she had a restraining order against her former boyfriend.
Undeterred, Mr Navarro went on bended knee and asked her to marry him. “Come back,” he said sounding tearful, as the audience cooed. “You are everything for me.”
Ms Orlova shook her head slightly. “Well Svetlana, say something!” the host exclaimed. “We are all on tenter-hooks. Is that ‘no’, or ‘I don’t know’? Say it clearly.”
Five days later Mr Navarro was arrested after allegedly stabbing Ms Orlova repeatedly in the neck. She died in hospital.
Baldomero Limón of Boomerang, the production company responsible for the programme, said that producers were “devastated”, but denied any responsibility in Ms Orlova’s death, saying that they were also deceived by Mr Navarro. “Nothing made us suspect that a tragedy like this could occur.”
Viewers’ groups have called for the show to be taken off the air.
It is not the first time that a woman has been killed after appearing on Spanish television shows. In 1997, Ana Orantes, 60, was doused with petrol and burnt alive by her husband, José Parejo. Unable to get any help from the authorities, she had gone on a television show to speak of the beatings that she endured at his hands. In November 2004, Andrés Reyes killed his 18-year-old girlfriend after she appeared on a television show to speak about his abuse of her.
The Spanish Government has named the high rate of violence against women in Spain a priority and wants broadcasters to draw up a code of conduct for these programmes. “Domestic violence should not be a television spectacle,” MarÍa Teresa Fernández de la Vega, the Deputy Prime Minister, said.
Sixty-nine women have been killed by their partners this year. Despite government efforts, Spanish judges are accused of being sympathetic to men who are violent towards their partners. Women’s rights groups expressed outrage last week after a judge gave a reduced sentence to Mariano Navas, who stabbed his girlfriend in 2005, citing his “humiliation” on Patricia’s Daily Show as mitigating factor.
Sunday, 25 November 2007
Until all women stand up together in the struggle against male violence, they will continue to rape, beat and abuse us
To some, feminist activism seems old hat. One of my friends, who has been involved in the women's liberation movement for as long as I have, sneered at me when I asked her if she was coming on this Saturday's Reclaim the Night march through London. The inference was that she had something better to do.
Well there is nothing better I can think of to do on Saturday. If you are planning to watch X Factor instead of marching alongside your sisters, chanting fabulous slogans such as "men off the streets," and "yes means yes, and no means no," consider this. Without feminist activism, rape in marriage would be legal; it would be perfectly acceptable to pay women less than men for the same job and sack them when pregnant; and domestic violence would be considered a normal part of family life. While you open that bottle of wine and put your feet up, more than two thousand of us will be protesting about the atrocities inflicted on women by men and telling men they will not continue to get away with it.
Although it is fashionable to look down on what is thought to be old-fashioned feminism - doing direct action, naming men as the problem, criticising rather than embracing the sex industry - women need to be out on the streets, protesting about sexual violence more than ever.
Despite four decades of campaigning against domestic violence, over 100 women are still killed every year by current and former partners. More rapes than ever are reported but far fewer convicted than the 1970s, and the sex industry is growing at an alarming rate, globally. There are so few convictions for child sexual abuse, it may as well be legal to rape an under-five year old, and sexual harassment in the workplace is still a major problem for women. I could go on.
Male violence towards women and children - yes, male - is pandemic. We must force them to change - to stop raping, killing and abusing us. When I march on Saturday, I will be doing so for women everywhere - even those of you watching X Factor - because sexual violence is the only thing in the world that affects all women, and therefore working towards eliminating it should be something we are all involved in.
Before you start having a go, telling me you have not been raped, or beaten by your partner, or sexually abused, or flashed, let me ask you (women) something. Can you honestly say, hand on heart, that you have never feared rape? Have you never modified your behaviour, even just a little, for fear of being attacked? Remember that time you took a minicab home, alone and drunk? Did you feel relieved the next day that nothing bad happened to you? Or when you walked through a park late at night alone? All women know that if we have not been raped, we are lucky. We are so accustomed to living with the constant, nagging fear of sexual violence that we rarely notice it is there half the time.
So let us stop ignoring the obvious. Until we all stand up together and make ourselves visible in the struggle against male violence, they will continue to rape, beat and abuse us. Let's see you there on Saturday. And men, if you wish to be part of the solution rather than the problem, perhaps you could send the organisers a donation for next year's march? Something tells me we will not have a world free of sexual violence by next November.