Three men jailed for six years for rape - despite judge's move to have trial halted
A woman who was raped by three men at a drunken party "was in no way able to consent to engaging in any kind of sexual activity" police said after her attackers were jailed for six years despite a failed move by a judge to have their trial halted.
Judge John Pini QC stopped the trial of Pawel Chudzicki, 49, Michael Armitage, 44, and Rafal Segiet, 40, at Lincoln Crown Court last month after he decided there was not enough evidence for a jury to decide whether the 23-year-old complainant had consented to sex with each of them.
But Judge Pini's decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal in a rare move and each of the defendants were found guilty of rape earlier this week.
It is not thought the judge will face any disciplinary action as a result of his overturned ruling but the victim in the case said of his decision: "I thought it was all over. It was very worrying."
The officer who led the inquiry, Detective Inspector Simon Lovett, said: "Capacity and consent have been at the very heart of this case. The victim was in no way able to consent to engaging in any kind of sexual activity with these men. She was vulnerable and incapable of giving any kind of consent."
The officer said: "We hope this serves as a warning and reminder to everyone that before engaging in any kind of sexual activity you must be absolutely sure that the other person has the capacity to fully consent and does so."
And the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) also said that "it was clear the woman was in no state to consent to sex".
The trial of Chudzicki, Armitage, and Segiet, which started last month, heard how the woman had already drunk around 12 vodka shots when she was picked up by three men, including two of the defendants, outside a Lincoln nightclub in October 2012 and taken to a party in a flat in the city where she continued to drink.
An expert worked out that she was around two-and-a-half times the drink-drive limit when she left the club at 2.10am.
She continued drinking at the flat, where the three defendants were drinking vodka with at least four other men, and did not leave until 11pm that night.
The trial heard how the victim had never met any of the men before that night and all the defendants told police they had consensual sex with her at the party.
But prosecutors said the victim was subjected to "a protracted attack" which "lasted 20 hours".
Her sexual activity with Armitage was filmed on a phone.
Sentencing the men today, Judge Pini said the woman was "used as a shared commodity" by the defendants and told them: "All three of you had sex with her when she was so intoxicated she was helpless."
And he said: "She had lost the capacity to evaluate, discriminate and make meaningful choices."
The judge told all three men: "She had no capacity to consent. You all had no reasonable belief she was consenting."
But last month, at the end of the prosecution case in the trial, Judge Pini ruled that there was no case to answer.
He told the court at the time: "In my judgment there is insufficient evidence from which the jury could determine lack of capacity and I will withdraw the case from the jury."
Judge Pini said then: "I do not want this ruling to be misunderstood - I am absolutely not saying that a woman in drink cannot say no.
"I am not saying that lack of memory equals consent. I am simply saying that the prosecution must make the jury sure that at the material time which here is, save in the case of Michael Armitage, unknown, she lacked the capacity to consent as opposed to being able to form a drunken intent, and now having forgotten what may have happened.
"And in my judgment on that vital issue there is a deficit of evidence."
Three judges in the Court of Appeal, including Lord Justice Treacy, said they had viewed the phone footage of Armitage and the woman.
They said: "It appears to us that (the woman) is depicted throughout as being sufficiently inert and unresponsive as to leave it open to a properly directed jury to be sure that she was not consenting and that she did not have the freedom and capacity to do so.
"Such a conclusion is entirely a matter for the jury."
The judges said: "In the judge's ruling he failed to make any reference to the video clips of Armitage.
"We consider that this was a serious and significant omission and that when the evidence available in Armitage's case is considered, there was indeed a case to go to the jury.
"Accordingly we are satisfied that the decision made was not reasonable and we reverse the judge's ruling and indicate that there is a case to answer."
The victim issued a statement through Lincolnshire Police which said: "After this happened I went on anti-depressants, I got panic attacks, I didn't have a relationship for over a year because I had trouble with trust and intimacy. It was all very stressful, as was the court case.
"The sentence for each of these men is a good one, I am pleased with it, and it's a bit more than I thought they might get.
"I'll never forget what happened but I will move on. I'm now in a steady and happy relationship and looking to the future. I wouldn't have got through any of this without the help, love and support of my family and friends.
"I'd like to say to everyone that if you ever find yourself in the position that the men involved in this did that you should really think about what you're doing and make sure you know the person you're with is fully aware of what they are doing. Being drunk is not an excuse.
"To any girl who has been in my situation - if something has happened and you think that something isn't right then talk to people, the authorities or family and friends and hopefully they can help."
Lawrence English, CPS East Midlands Senior District Crown Prosecutor, said: "This was rape as it was clear the woman was in no state to consent to sex.
"While it is, of course, true that lack of memory, on its own, does not prove lack of consent, the context in this case showed that this victim was taken advantage of because she was incapacitated, and that she could not have consented to sexual activity.
"It is against the law to engage in sexual activity with someone who is clearly unable, through drink, to give their consent. We are pleased that the Court of Appeal ruled in the way it did and the case proceeded to the jury for a verdict."
The court was told that divorced father-of-two Armitage, from Oldham, served with distinction in the British Army for 10 years, including in the first Gulf War. Segiet and Chudzicki are both Polish nationals, living in Lincoln, who came to the UK to work.
Chudzicki is a father of three and forklift truck driver Segiet is a father of two.