Friday 24 November 2017

Accuser was tainted by insinuation and blame

Tinder rape trial was pervaded by a frankly ugly sense that it was all the woman's fault, writes Eimear Cotter

Pervading over the whole trial was the frankly ugly insinuation that the woman was on Tinder, was looking to hook up, so what did she expect? Stock photo
Pervading over the whole trial was the frankly ugly insinuation that the woman was on Tinder, was looking to hook up, so what did she expect? Stock photo

Eimear Cotter

As early as last Tuesday, reporters covering the Tinder rape trial were of the same opinion - he raped her but the evidence just wasn't there to convict him.

Defence lawyer Michael Bowman SC was nice about it but he picked the victim's story apart piece by piece during a lengthy cross examination, which even the judge described as an "interrogation".

Mr Bowman's closing speech where he highlighted, again and again, the inconsistencies in the victim's evidence, must have raised doubts in the minds of the jury about what happened. And all the defence must do is plant the seed of reasonable doubt.

Sadly, for the victim, the press pack was correct. After just over four hours, the Central Criminal Court jury returned last Friday afternoon with a verdict of not guilty of rape. The 35-year-old accused teared up, said "thank you so much" to the jury and hugged his family. He had pleaded not guilty to rape at Kilmashogue Lane in Rathfarnham on September 11, 2014.

It was the prosecution case that he raped the woman in his car after driving her up the Dublin Mountains.

The woman said she was terrified of him, thought he was going to beat her and she had to have sex with him.

The defence team had claimed her evidence was not credible, that she was in contact with six other men on Tinder within 36 hours of the alleged rape and told her flatmate it was the "worst date ever". Mr Bowman said if what she alleged had really happened, it would have warned her off Tinder forever.

The woman said she went back on Tinder because she wanted to pretend it never happened. Following the verdict, the woman sobbed her heart out, supported on either side by her parents.

Pervading over the whole trial was the frankly ugly insinuation that the woman was on Tinder, was looking to hook up, so what did she expect?

"At the end of the day it's Tinder and she said she's horny," the accused told gardai, referring to sexting that had taken place between the pair. He said his mindset was that they were meeting up to have sex.

In her evidence, the woman said that after a brief kissing session she told him to "take it easy" and she didn't want a one-night stand. His response: "What the f**k do you think we're here for?"

The accused's expectation that he'd have sex with this young woman all because she was on Tinder, is worrying. He seemed to suggest to gardai that consent was implied simply because she said she was horny and was on a dating app.

From her evidence, it's clear the woman decided on the lesser of two evils - just have sex with him so he wouldn't beat the sh*t out of her. She also hadn't planned to report it, and it was her flatmate who contacted gardai, encouraged her to make a statement and preserved her clothes. This was essentially a "she said/he said" case. There was no forensic evidence of forced sex which would support a rape conviction. The woman visited a GP to get the morning-after pill, and not the sexual assault treatment unit in the Rotunda Hospital.

His lawyers argued this was consistent with someone who had "unprotected sex, not someone who was raped".

In her evidence, the 31-year-old woman said the pair arranged to go for "a spin and a coffee". He told her they would take the "long way back" to the city as he drove down an unlit rural road.

She said that after a brief kissing session she told him to "take it easy". He leaned over and pulled a lever to drop her seat back and got on top of her.

"I was afraid he was going to beat me," she said. She put her hands to his chest and said "seriously, stop".

He pulled her jeans down to her knees. She said she was terrified. "He lifted up my legs. I stopped resisting him then," she testified. She said he then raped her. She denied asking him if he had a condom.

Afterwards, he dropped her home and later sent her a WhatsApp message with a smiley face, which she deleted.

The text messages were later retrieved and Mr Bowman said they showed the true picture of what happened - they both used Tinder to hook up and had consensual sex.

There were inconsistencies in the woman's evidence and these were picked apart by the defence. First, the arrangement to meet was made by the woman, and not by the defendant, which was what she told gardai.

The woman suggested to gardai the accused bombarded her with texts to meet and she couldn't respond because she was in college. Not true, said Mr Bowman. The mobile phone data showed she responded almost every time. She wasn't even in college, as she was hungover.

She said she didn't know the defendant's gym was in Ranelagh. Not true, said Mr Bowman. The texts clearly showed he told her his gym was in Ranelagh.

In interviews with gardai, the accused said the woman asked him if he had a condom. This was denied by her in cross examination. But this was the evidence of her flatmate, who said this was what she had been told by the woman.

The flatmate also said her friend told her she masturbated him while he sat in his car seat. This evidence was given by the accused, but the victim denied this, saying it all happened when he lay on top of her in her car seat.

Mr Bowman said the woman had included the man in a list of sexual partners which she kept in her mobile phone.

She was on Tinder within hours and had conversations with six different men.

"So what," said Alex Owens SC, who urged the jury to judge the facts, not the woman. "The fact the woman was on Tinder afterwards is not something which is necessarily inconsistent with an allegation of rape," he said.

In his garda interviews, the accused said he "hoped" and "expected" to have sex with the woman. He said she didn't say no, he didn't beat her up, or use violence, threats or force. He told gardai he thought the woman was "cold" afterwards. He wanted to hold her and be affectionate, but she wanted her space. After the jury delivered its verdict of not guilty of rape, the accused shouted at prosecuting garda: "You stitch-up sc*mbags."

He was led away by prison officers because he is in custody on other matters.

This trial was the first of a series of rape and sexual assault trials due before the Irish courts in the next 18 months - all involving individuals who met via social media.

This is how people are meeting these days. This is becoming the dating norm.

Sunday Independent

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