False rape claim, 10 months in jail

At a rape trial in Dunedin a man was cleared after the alleged victim (13 years old when she made her first complaints) admitted in court she had made false allegations. This was after the man had spent 10 months in jail on remand.

ODT: Cleared after 10 months in jail

Christopher John Ferguson (31) lived that nightmare for nearly a year while he sat in jail awaiting trial at the Dunedin District Court and a chance to clear his name.

Eight sex charges – including two of rape – were dismissed by Judge Michael Crosbie after the primary complainant admitted she had made everything up.

The 13-year-old girl was interviewed by police in 2013 when she made allegations of sexual violation and then in 2015 she came forward with further claims of repeated rapes that supposedly occurred over several weeks.

Added to an allegation of drunkenly groping another child, police finally charged Mr Ferguson in May 2016.

He denied the charges but was denied bail, partly because of convictions for violence on his criminal record.

Mr Ferguson spent the next 10 months behind bars as an accused sex offender.

But at the trial this week:

After viewing more than three hours of video interviews with the young girl, during which she gradually painted a picture of constant abuse, counsel Anne Stevens cross-examined.

In her opening, she told the 12 jurors the allegations against her client were fabricated; and so it proved.

”Mrs Stevens’ questions were firm but fair and initially elicited some responses that saw [the complainant] become upset and need to take a break,” Judge Crosbie said.

When the trial resumed, the girl resiled from her original story and said none of it had happened.

”[She] said Mr Ferguson did not touch her on any occasion,” the judge explained to the jury before dismissing them yesterday.

”She confirmed she was not under pressure and she was telling the truth.”

The girl told him she was having family problems at the time.

”That’s her roundabout explanation,” Judge Crosbie said.

Though scenarios like it were not unheard of, the judge said, ”what you’ve seen is out of the ordinary and what we’d regard as an exceptional case”.

”I’m satisfied we now know the truth. What you have is a trial process that’s worked,” he said.

So the man walked free. But while the trial process eventually worked he had paid a high price.

Despite the ordeal, the man said he bore no great animosity towards the girl who lied about him.

”I do feel sorry for the complainant for carrying those lies around for so long,” Mr Ferguson said.

”It feels great to finally have my name cleared.”

It is great he was cleared, eventually, and while he expressed no animosity he would be justified in feeling aggrieved at the girl’s false accusations.

In this case it was multiple complaints – by multiple girls according to the ODT timeline:

October 2010: First girl tells police Christopher John Ferguson sneaked into her bedroom and molested her in May.

April 2011: He is interviewed by police.

June 2011: Police choose not to prosecute.

July 2013: Second complainant says Mr Ferguson raped her.

October 2013: He denies the offending and police again choose not to lay charges.

June 2015: The same girl makes further. claims of molestation and rape.

May 2016: Mr Ferguson is interviewed and charged with three counts of indecent assault, three of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and two of rape.

So this has been over nearly 7 years, with the man spending the last 10 months in prison.

There is no other information about whether the first complainant was linked in any way to the second complainant.

Though the older complainant had stood by her allegations at trial, he noted the police had opted not to press charges following her statement in 2011.

”It’s fair to assume the decision was based on insufficiency of evidence or the complainant or both,” the judge said.

Making false rape accusations is a serious offence, or it should be. There is no indication of what repercussions there should be for making the false complaints.

False rape complaints not only impact on those who are falsely accused, it also allows people who try to play down the seriousness of the number and severity of sex crimes to claim it isn’t as big a problem as it seems to be.

And it also makes it harder for people who make genuine sexual assault and rape complaints.

A Rape Crisis Dunedin community educator Anna Hoek-Sims said instances of false allegations made it harder for real sexual-abuse victims to come forward because most feared they would not be believed.

She stressed only about 2% of cases that made it to court were based on fabricated claims and said it was important to consider why it happened.

”I think we need to keep in mind that people who make false complaints often make them for another reason, such as personal issues, health issues or even past history of sexual violence and often when something like this happens, the person can be forgotten in the fury that follows a false accusation.

”I hope that in this case, the person receives the support they need.”

Support, yes, it seems a sad situation where a young teenager makes such serious accusations. But it is also a bad situation and there should also be appropriate consequences.

2% of cases being false accusations doesn’t sound like many but they tend to stand out in the news as ‘ordinary’ or legitimate sexual assault cases are common.

And 2% still amounts to a sizeable number.

justice.govt.nz: How much sexual victimisation is there?

We estimated 186,000 sexual offences were committed in 2013. While we found no statistically significant change between 2008 and 2013, we did record a decrease between 2005 (317,000) and 2013.

When we look at the percentage of New Zealanders who were victims of sexual violence, we found 2.1% of adults experienced one or more sexual offences in 2013. This decreased over time, from 3.9% in 2005 to 2.8% in 2008 and down to 2.1% in 2013.

Looking at sexual victimisation by gender, we found that women (2.9%) were more likely than men (1.1%) to have experienced a sexual offence in 2013.

Overall, we found there were 5.2 sexual offences for every 100 adults in 2013.

That is 52 offences for every 1,000 adults. 2% of that is 1 false complaint per 1,000 adults.

The number of both sexual offences and false complaints is horrifyingly high.

 

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35 Comments

  1. Bill Brown

     /  31st March 2017

    The time line on this whole case is astounding

    Being accused of this type of crime must have made prison a very torrid and dangerous time for the accused.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  31st March 2017

      Let us hope that his fellow prisoners believed him as they did with Peter Ellis.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  2nd April 2017

        Tthey must have, I think, or we would have heard that he’d not only been in prison, he’d been given a bad time by the other prisoners.

        Reply
  2. Chuck Bird

     /  31st March 2017

    There is no evidence that the 2% figure is correct. Many people think it is a lot higher. The truth is it is very difficult to get a true figure.

    Reply
    • “Many people think it is a lot higher”

      Many people may also think that there is no evidence of that claim.

      Reply
    • Missy

       /  31st March 2017

      That is 2% of those that make it to court, I would be interested in how many of total rape allegations made to police are found to be false including those that go to court, and those that don’t. Would that be higher than 2% of all allegations?

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  31st March 2017

        2% seems a small number of fakes. I would bet that the number is actually higher.

        In China, a false complaint of any kind results in the person who made it being given the sentence that the person against whom it was made being given the sentence that would have been handed down had the complaint been true-or so I have read.

        Weren’t the false rape complainantts being charged with and fined for wasting police time here ?

        Reply
  3. And no doubt all the false rape complainants have been imprisoned ???
    If not why not

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  31st March 2017

      Because young people and especially young women are not responsible for anything they do. They have idiot psychologists to claim their brains are not properly developed so it isn’t their fault.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  31st March 2017

        Fines amounting to the cost of the police time seem a better option-otherwise the taxpayer’s being charged twice.

        Reply
  4. Chuck Bird

     /  31st March 2017

    I was on a jury on a rape trial many years ago. The complainant lied through her teeth. We came in with not guilty verdict in under 30 minutes. The complainant of course was not charged and she would be not part of any statistic of false complaints that went to court. The 2% figure is just made up.

    Reply
    • Griff

       /  31st March 2017

      99% of all statistics are just made up…….

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  31st March 2017

        A friend was on a jury in a case where a schoolmaster was charged with rape (or some sex crime) that supposedly took place in a school gym changing room. The jury were out for minutes, as the crime couldn’t possibly have happened in such a public place and in the short time that it was supposed to have taken !

        Reply
  5. David

     /  31st March 2017

    What does this mean for all those who want an accusation to be all that is required for a conviction?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  31st March 2017

      I suspect that those people would sing a different song if they were accused.

      Reply
  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  31st March 2017

    False rape complaints are not the only way young women can destroy men’s lives:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11828749

    These girls belong in jail, not in CYF “care”. Let them out only when they are ready to work to recompense their victims.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  31st March 2017

      Their victims and the taxpayer. I was appalled to read a book by the wife of a man accused of indecent exposure (maybe something else, I can’t remember the details) who was EVENTUALLY proved innocent. THEY HAD TO PAY THE COSTS AND ENDED UP HAVING TO SELL THE HOUSE. I can’t remember what happened to his business-he was a painter, i think) but I can guess.

      Reply
  7. Peter

     /  1st April 2017

    The two percent figure is indeed just plucked out of the air.

    In these cases, you can bet on two things. First, someone will say how rare it is. Happens every time. Second, someone will say that the tragedy of these rare cases is that real victims may not be believed. But it isn’t at all. The tragedy is that a man may have his life destroyed. It is outrageous and it has to stop. At the very least, let’s get the language right. It’s accuser, not victim; it’s suspect, not perpetrator.

    Research done on all 1754 rape complaints in Bavaria in the year 2000 by Erich Elsner and Wiebke Steffen revealed the following. A third of these accusations were judged to be probably not true. No prosecution of an alleged rapist was pursued in half of the total. Reasons for abandoning prosecution were divided into four groups (figures rounded to nearest whole number): lack of evidence 38%; contradictory statements by the women 25%; no punishable action 14%; no offender found 22%. Of the 1754 complainants, 7.4% were investigated for making a false complaint, and of that 7.4%, every single one admitted she had lied. Police prosecuted three-quarters of the false complainants; the other quarter were let off because of mental instability. The study also found that female police officers were more skeptical about rape accusations than male officers.

    Most interesting is that 7.4% of the 1754 total admitted they had lied. This means that the absolute minimum of false rape complaints in this study is 7.4%. The true percentage of false rape complaints could never be determined, but it must have comprised two numbers: the known 7.4% plus an unknown additional number: those who lied but could hide under enough doubt to escape blame. A woman who is part of that 7.4% of confessed liars still had a one-in-four chance of escaping prosecution because of her mental state.

    Reply
    • Chuck Bird

       /  1st April 2017

      Have you an online source for this please?

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  1st April 2017

        There was that appalling case in Hamilton where the victim knew the accuser-but she wanted to see if it would be possible to bring a case based only on the accuser’s word and he was the unlucky choice.

        It was possible.

        I can’t remember now how long the victim was inside, or what it cost his family to prove his innocence-or how, it was some years ago, I do remember that he and his friends couldn’t prove where they’d been, I think that they’d had some drinks and gone for a pizza or something like that and couldn’t prove times-who could ? Who’d remember someone coming in ? It was Saturday night.

        The accuser had TOLD one or two people that she wanted to do this, which they, of course, didn’t take seriously at the time. I think that the family hired a private detective and he was finallly cleared.

        They were both law students. One ent on with their law degree and became a lawyer, with permanent name suppression except for their first name. Guess which one that was ? Yes, it really was.

        Someone from Rape Crisis was interviewed on the 20/20 or whatever it was. Her view was that the accuser must have been raped by someone, at some time, (the accuser said not) and that it didn’t matter that some poor innocent person had this happen to him.

        Let’s assume that she HAD been, for argument’s sake. The Rape Crisis speaker was in effect saying that as long as SOMEONE is punished, it’s all right. Ergo, is it all right that some real rapist is walking free while some mug does time for the real rapist’s crime ?

        I suspect that had the Rape Crisis woman been the victim of a crime, she wouidn’t think that it was acceptable for the real criminal to get away with it while someone else did his sentence.

        Reply
        • Chuck Bird

           /  1st April 2017

          You are thinking of Nick Wills who was lucky to have two very supportive parents although they were separated. I believe they got $35k out of the lying bitch who may now be a lawyer. This did not cover their costs. I do not see why I got the down ticks. Do people think I just made my story up and such thing do not happen?

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  1st April 2017

            That has to be the one. Thank you.

            She became a lawyer, believe it or not, last heard of in Auckland & I hope that her career was stuffed. There is no way that I would want her as my lawyer. If I heard that my own lawyer had set some innocent person up in that way just to see if it could be done, he would no longer be my lawyer. He was a friend before he was our lawyer, and he probably wouldn’t be that, either.

            If I was a man, and one of Wendy’s clients (that name was public & I believe that her surname should have been, too) I’d be (a) making sure that I wasn’t behind a closed door with her (b) looking for a male lawyer.

            Rape Crisis lost all my respect after that-I couldn’t believe that this woman was dismissing the victim and his pain. Also indulging in such sloppy thinking.

            The ‘Phantom Down Ticker/s’ has/ve a very odd way of thinking. Take it as a compliment.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  1st April 2017

              I think she is a criminal lawyer…KC…don’t use her,pick another criminal lawyer to…defend..you.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  1st April 2017

              She’s a criminal lawyer indeed. I am so unlikely to need a lawyer to defend me, it is not an issue.

            • Chuck Bird

               /  2nd April 2017

              In many cases the court orders name suppression to criminal to protect a victim. This case never went to court. I wonder if she has been granted name suppression by a court. Do you know her name Kitty? I am not suggesting you put it on this blog but I would like to knew if you or anyone has her name.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  2nd April 2017

              The news story said that her name was Wendy, so it’s all right to say it here. We didn’t hear her last name. I would not be surprised if she had changed it. I remembered the name because it seemed an odd one for someone of her age.

              It would be interesting to see the story again, but of course I have no idea which current affairs show it was-or when it was.

              Rape Crisis did themselves a disservice by this woman saying, in so many words, that anyone who made a complaint must have had something happen at some time, and so it was justified to accuse someone else ! My late husband had his wallet stolen-but I bet that the Rape Crisis speaker would take a dim view of his accusing her of it and not think that it was justified because SOMEONE had done it !.

            • Chuck Bird

               /  2nd April 2017

              Kitty, I remember her name was Wendy if it was her true name. I would love to know her full name and where she is practicing.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  3rd April 2017

              I can’t understand why any law firm would take her on-and I would imagine that no man would want to be in her office with the door closed.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  3rd April 2017

              I see that Nick Wills DID become a lawyer ! Good for him. It’s wonderful that he didn’t leave the law-I thought that he had. It took a terrible toll on him, which is understandable. One selfish, spiteful little bitch did all that, and I’m glad that she didn’t destroy him because she had nothing better to do that day.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  3rd April 2017

              I don’t know if that’s what I have just read, but it was something similar. I am very glad that he did, in fact. continue with his law degree.

  8. Kitty Catkin

     /  1st April 2017

    I don’t think that I’d like William Roache much if I met him, but I agree with him that name suppression should be automatic in these cases until guilt is proven.

    Yes, a life can be damaged or ruined by a false claim. I have told the story before of the headmaster who jumped in and saved a child who was in trouble in the water…only to be accused by the ungrateful little bitch of having a grope as he did so. He was, of course, cleared but ended up leaving teaching and the profession lost a great man. The child went to another school, where her male teacher totally ignored her all the time that she was in his class. Serve her right.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  1st April 2017

      See what I mean, Chuck ? The PDT must think that false acusations are acceptable.

      Reply
  9. Chuck Bird

     /  4th April 2017

    It is good to see a lot of woman are not see anti male that they do not worry about innocent men spending time in jail. I have concerns about the new domestic violence legislation that is being debated. They are talking about locking up either offenders or those accused of a breach much easier. A breach could mean trying to contact one children.

    Reply
  1. False rape claim, 10 months in jail – NZ Conservative Coalition

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