State must compensate alleged rape victim, offer counselling for court delay

Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams - File photo
Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams - File photo

A HIGH COURT judge has ordered the State to put mechanisms in place and allocate sufficient resources to ensure a rape trial is completed expeditiously.

Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams made the order as she declared that the failure to ensure criminal cases involving child victims were expeditiously concluded was a breach of their right to protection of the law.

Before the judge was the constitutional claim of a a rape victim who sued the State for the inordinate delay in treating sexual offences.

Sunday Newsday featured the victim’s story on May 8, 2022. Her constitutional claim called on the authorities to put mechanisms in place and allocate sufficient resources to ensure criminal matters can be concluded expeditiously.

“The criminal justice system is in crisis and the State has failed to put mechanisms in place and allocate sufficient resources to ensure that criminal matters can be concluded expeditiously,” the claim said.

This, she said, has caused her psychological harm. Her evidence in the civil matter said she cannot effectively receive treatment for the trauma caused by the attack until the case is concluded. She also said her alleged attacker was out on bail and she fears for her own safety.

“The law does not afford victims of crime the right to be heard on case-management decisions. The law does not afford judicial officers to consider the rights of victims when making case-management decisions.

“The law does not provide victims of crime with any remedy for the failure of the courts to determine their cases expeditiously,” it said.

In her ruling, Quinlan-Williams also ordered the State to ensure the claimant receives psychological counselling while the case against her alleged rapist is pending and to provide half-yearly reports to the registrar on these arrangements.

The alleged victim will also receive $60,000 in compensation.

In her lawsuit, she complained of the delay by the court in dealing with her case since 2018, when the older man she accused of raping her and fathering her older child first appeared in court on the 2017 allegation.

She spoke of the trauma of attending court and facing her alleged attacker. She also continues to have suicidal thoughts. She also said she tried to overdose on pills three times during her pregnancy to “get rid of the baby.” She said she eventually kept the baby, telling herself the child was hers only.

Now an adult, she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and generalised anxiety disorder caused by her alleged rape at age 16 and events after.

“The ongoing court proceedings has added to her existing PTSD symptoms by re-traumatising her in court,” the judge said of the evidence presented by the claimant.

Quinlan-Williams detailed the evidence and held although the damage to the claimant’s psychological integrity stemmed from her alleged attack at 16, it was “accentuated by the trauma from the ongoing court proceedings.”

She also said the evidence supported the claimant’s position of cancellations and postponement of the criminal court matter with no good reason given for the delays.

“The inexcusable delays, prolonging the criminal proceedings has caused the claimant to experience trauma from being chastised and humiliated by the defence attorney and from having to repeatedly face her alleged rapist resulting in the claimant’s psychological damage.”

Although she held the claim was open to challenge the slow pace of the criminal proceedings – which included writing to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the chief magistrate or Chief Justice to manage the case – the judge said she “appropriately” pursued constitutional redress.

“In so doing, this gives the State an opportunity to correct its wrong by ceasing the inexcusable delays and postponements in the proceedings and to compensate the claimant for the psychological damage already incurred.

“As such, while the claimant has suffered an infringement to her right to security of the person, she has not been deprived of due process of law.”

Quinlan-Williams suggested the matter could have been referred to the Children’s Court.

“What the record of the proceeding showed was that the criminal case lumbered through the court without regard to claimant being a child,” she said.

“TT’s suite of legislation and the Children Court rules are clearly intended to treat with children matters efficiently and promptly...”

“Having regard to law as obtained with regard to children matters, the court was satisfied that the claimant was not afforded the protection of the law.”

The accused was committed to stand trial in May 2022. Since the claimant was now an adult, when an indictment is filed against her alleged rapist, the case will be assigned to the Criminal Assizes.

In evidence in defence of the claim, Magistrate Taramatee Ramdass, the sixth magistrate to be assigned the case, gave evidence on the factors which affected the completion of preliminary inquiries.

Although she granted the declaration as it related to the claimant’s rights to protection of the law, Quinlan-Williams dismissed the six others she sought alleging that the State had a duty to victims of crime to put mechanisms in place and allocate sufficient resources to ensure criminal matters are concluded expeditiously, and that these alleged failures were breaches to the rights of victims of crime.

The claimant was represented by Lee Merry, Rebecca Rafeek and Larry Boyer. Coreen Findley, Rachael Jacob and Nisa Simmons appeared for the Attorney General.

Comments

"State must compensate alleged rape victim, offer counselling for court delay"

More in this section