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May 20, 2003

Deaf woman 'locked up as she reported rape'

From: The Scotsman, UK - May 20, 2003


AN INQUIRY was underway last night after a deaf and dumb woman alleged that police handcuffed her and locked her up when she alleged she had been raped by a teenager.

Chief Superintendent Tom Buchan of Strathclyde Police - who commands the division involved - said the 44-year-old mother's account of her ordeal was "shocking".

He ordered a full investigation when he heard evidence given by the woman during a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

She told the court that police handcuffed her and locked her up when she tried to tell them what had happened.

But the police officers involved later told the court she was drunk and they could not leave her in charge of her nine-year-old daughter.

The youth accused of raping the woman in her own home was cleared by the jury yesterday.

Mr Buchan said: "If what was said in the trial happened then that is shocking, there is no getting away from that, and it must have been very unpleasant - to put it mildly."

The woman had made no formal complaint about the way she was treated in April last year, he added, but a senior officer was investigating her allegations.

He continued: "It hurts when I read that we possibly let people down."

The woman's daughter had dialled 999 on her mobile phone to bring officers of Strathclyde Police to her mother's home in the west of Scotland in April last year. Giving evidence, the woman said: "The police said I was mental, I was crazy, and that is when they handcuffed me."

The woman, who has been profoundly deaf since an attack of measles when she was two years old, needed a sign language interpreter to describe her ordeal to the court.

The jury heard that it was only when an interpreter arrived at the police station where the terrified woman had been locked up for hours that detectives began to investigate the rape claim.

On trial was James Clark, 17, of Coatbridge, who denied raping the woman on 13 April last year. He claimed she had initiated sex by taking off her top.

The woman claimed Clark - who was 16 at the time - came to her house, asking for her teenage daughter's phone number. She told him to wait outside while she looked for it.

"He just barged in," she said. "He walked right into the living room and just sat there and took off his cap."

She claimed Clark ignored the signs that she made asking him to leave and tried to kiss her before pushing her into a chair, holding his hand over her mouth and forcing her to have sex.

He then told her he loved her and left the house, she added.

Clark said he had never been in trouble with the police before and did not know what was happening when they turned up at his house, demanding his clothes.

The jury took 40 minutes to find Clark not guilty. Lord McEwan said it had been an "unusual and anxious case".