Original article from Kent Live
Kent Police paid a woman damages after an investigation into claims a woman was raped by her dad fell "below the standards expected"
The alleged victim said she had to "lead the investigation herself" after he fled the country when she alleged he had attacked her.
When the allegations were made in 1999, the woman was aged 19, and claimed her dad had sexually abused her between the ages of 13 and 16.
Having been charged and granted bail, the man never returned to the UK to face the courts after subsequently fleeing to South Africa.
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As the woman's frustration grew over the lack of progress made in the case, she agreed to travel to South Africa when asked to do so by officers.
However, an internal Kent Police complaint investigation was said to have found no attempts were made to corroborate the information she provided.
The woman is now married and has a 23-year-old daughter.
She claims she has endured years of chasing up officers at Kent Police for progress without success.
The woman contacted solicitors to investigate the force itself after believing she had '"lost her fight".
It was alleged that Kent Police had failed to meet its 'distinct responsibilities to investigate' and not followed lines of enquiry to ensure the case was kept 'live'.
The legal team also alleged the force had displayed a 'lack of empathy' in its communications with the woman, and had breached the woman's human rights due to 'systematic failings'.
Legal representatives acting on behalf of Kent Police offered a five-figure damages settlement.
Now, 21 years after finding the courage to make her allegations, she says she has finally been given "some form of closure".
'They have raped me of my dignity and self-worth over two decades'
The woman, herself now a volunteer with a charity which supports victims, said: “This has taken over my life so, despite not getting the result I wanted as my father has never faced prosecution, I am glad it has been brought to a conclusion.
“I never wanted compensation, but in many ways I lost my will to continue fighting for the police to do the right thing.
“I thought police forces were there to support victims, but now I feel so naïve.
"They had all they needed in terms of evidence and details of his location but did nothing. I feel the police have done more damage to me now than my father did. They have raped me of my dignity and self-worth over two decades.
“The last straw was when they asked for my medical records, years after the investigation had repeatedly stalled, and an officer described them as ‘good stuff’ when talking about the most harrowing moments of my life.
"That just about said it all about their attitude.
“When they offered compensation out of court I didn’t really want to accept, as ideally I wanted to go to court and highlight their failings in front of a judge. I’d run out of fight though and couldn’t go on."
"It’s a small victory after all this time"
The woman also reiterated her desire of bringing the case to a close for the good of her mental wellbeing.
"I needed this to end in some way for me to get my life back, for my own mental health," she added.
“I know they’ve not made any admissions over failings, and I haven’t had an apology for the way they have treated me as a victim, but in my mind people don’t pay compensation if they don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong.
"It is perhaps as close to an apology as I can get, and in some way an acknowledgement of the damage they have caused me.
“It’s a small victory after all this time which now allows me to sleep at night and move on. After more than two decades of this being a shadow over my life, I needed that to happen.
“It hurts to have been treated in this way. Over the years, given all that has happened, I have felt that there has been nobody out there to help me.
Solicitor Adam Biglin also added that there was a "lack of empathy" in Kent Police's dealings of the case, and admitted they are pleased to have been able to bring the case to a close.
“There was a lack of empathy and no apparent understanding of the effects of the whole matter on our client, he said.
"This was acknowledged in the internal complaints investigation.
“We are pleased to have been able to secure damages for what we feel was a woefully handled investigation at every stage and every level, although of course we recognise that our client has never had the justice of seeing her father face the charges which were brought against him before he fled.”
Acting Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police's crime command, Andy Pritchard, said: "In 2017 Kent Police received a complaint regarding an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse dating back to 1999.
"An internal review was conducted and found that despite the complexities of the case, the overall quality of the investigation had fallen below the standards expected and an officer was issued with management action and an apology offered to the victim.
"Further correspondence was received from the victim in 2018 alleging losses as a consequence of a breach of the Human Rights Act and on 9 June 2021 Kent Police agreed an out of court settlement to the victim, which the force hopes will provide some sort of closure to what was undoubtedly a very difficult time for the victim.
"It is important to note that this complaint dates back to an investigation in 1999 and is therefore not a reflection of the improved investigative standards and victim support we have now.
"Victims and witnesses are at the heart of everything we do and the public should have every confidence that when they contact us, their report will be thoroughly investigated."
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