Saturday 17 February 2018

Three men who raped woman 'used as a shared commodity' jailed

Lincolnshire Police undated handout photo of (left to right) Pawel Chudzicki, Michael Armitage and Rafal Segiet who have all been jailed for six years after they were found guilty at Lincoln Crown Court of raping a woman. Photo: Lincolnshire Police/PA Wire
Lincolnshire Police undated handout photo of (left to right) Pawel Chudzicki, Michael Armitage and Rafal Segiet who have all been jailed for six years after they were found guilty at Lincoln Crown Court of raping a woman. Photo: Lincolnshire Police/PA Wire

By Dave Higgens

Three men convicted of raping a woman despite a judge trying to stop their trial because he did not think there was enough evidence for a conviction have all been jailed for six years.

Pawel Chudzicki, 49, Michael Armitage, 44, and Rafal Segiet, 40, raped a 23-year-old woman at a flat in Lincoln in 2012.

Judge John Pini QC, who jailed the men at Lincoln Crown Court today, ordered their trial to be halted halfway through due to lack of evidence but this decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal in an unusual move.

The jury went on to convict the three men earlier this week.

Judge Pini made no mention of the Court of Appeal intervention in his trial when he sentenced the trio today.

He described how the woman had already had a lot to drink 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.

The judge said the woman consumed more alcohol at the party where she had sex with each of the three men in turn.

Her sexual activity with Armitage was filmed on a phone.

Judge Pini said she was "used as a shared commodity" by the defendants.

He 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."

The court was told that divorced father-of-two Armitage served with distinction in the British Army for 10 years, including in the first Gulf War. Segiet and Chudzicki are both Polish nationals who came to the UK to work.

Chudzicki is a father of three and forklift truck driver Segiet is a father of two.

Judge Pini ruled that there was no case to answer at the end of the prosecution case last month.

According to the Court of Appeal, Judge Pini told the court at the time: "I've found this case extremely interesting and extremely difficult.

"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: "We are left in the position that there is no evidence from which the jury could say she lacked capacity as opposed to simply having no recollection of events which may have been consented to.

"This is a uniquely difficult situation where, as opposed to (the case which is one of the leading legal authorities on these issues) there is a total absence of any evidence as to consent.

"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."

The 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."

After the case, the victim, who cannot be identified, said: "I'm just glad it's over now."

She said the judge's decision to halt the trial and the subsequent appeal worried her and her family.

She said: "I thought it was all over. It was very worrying. I was very upset, the whole family were. And we weren't allowed to know exactly what was going on."

The woman said: "They knew the evidence they had. They could have made that decision already, before getting to that point."

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.

The jury was told the woman left the nightclub at about 2.10am after drinking up to about 12 shots of vodka.

She went to the flat, where the three defendants were drinking vodka with at least four other men, and did not leave until 11pm that night.

When she complained to the police later, a blood sample was taken from her.

A toxicologist gave expert evidence at the trial, saying that at the time the victim was leaving the club she would have had a concentration of between 108 and 238 milligrams per 100 mls of blood with the most likely concentration 173. The drink driving limit is 80.

In a statement read to the court, the victim described how the ordeal had left her unable to form relationships and suffering from panic attacks.

She said it caused her "upset and stress".

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the victim was subjected to "a protracted attack" which "lasted 20 hours".

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 victim in this case has shown tremendous courage in this case. She suffered an horrific ordeal because of the actions of these three men and we are satisfied to see justice has been served."

The victim issued a statement through Lincolnshire Police which said: "This has taken a long time - two years and three months from when this happened to the conclusion of the court case.

"I would like to say thank you to the teams who helped me - the police, GPs, health professionals and counsellors, among others. Not one person has made a judgement and they have been incredibly supportive.

"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.

"It would be nice if something good came out of all of this and it could help someone else."

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.

"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.

"I would like to pay tribute to the victim in this case. She has shown immense courage; from giving live evidence in court to seeing this case through to the end. We are grateful to her for her help and hope today's sentences offer some closure so that she can really begin rebuilding her life."

Press Association

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