The headlines this week have been dominated by several shocking reports of women who have tragically killed themselves due to a lack of support following their allegations of rape. One such woman was Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement, whose heartrending story is currently being heard by a fresh inquest into her death.
Royal Military Police officer, Anne-Marie Ellement, was found hanged at Bulford Barracks near Salisbury, Wiltshire, on 9th October 2011 after she had been victimised, bullied and branded a “liar” by female colleagues. Corporal Ellement had reported being raped by two RMP colleagues in 2009 but no charges were brought against the two soldiers. This led to her being branded “the girl that cried rape”. Corporal Ellement’s mother claimed that Anne-Marie did not feel supported by the army and had been left alone to deal with the situation, too afraid to even leave her room, and having panic attacks.
An independent report released in 2006 revealed that 2/3 of British servicewomen had experienced behaviour ranging from sexual assaults to unwelcome comments. Labour MP Madeleine Moon has commented that “women say they do not trust the military justice system. Their experience of rape and sexual assault was that it was not dealt with”.
The situation is no better for civilians. On Monday Tracy Shelvey, 41, jumped off a multi-storey car park when a jury found her alleged rapist, Patrick Hall, not guilty. Yesterday Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police finally called for a rethink of the UK’s adversarial justice system, with less weight being put on victims. Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester agreed that lessons needed to be learned.
It is vital to identify what is going wrong when rape and sexual assaults are reported so that victims are protected and supported, and perpetrators are sanctioned. It is hoped that the inquest into Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement’s death will achieve this, particularly in the military setting, and that recommendations are made by Deputy Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg to ensure the MoD’s attitude is improved and that change is instigated as soon as possible.
by Hannah Ashcroft, Trainee Solicitor at Hilary Meredith Solicitors