Rape Claim Inquest Adjourned

A coroner's put on hold an inquest into the death of a woman from London who had been accused of falsely claiming she'd been raped.

It's after the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said she wants to personally investigate the case of 23-year-old Eleanor de Freitas who died on 4 April 2014.

Ms Saunders said she was "very saddened" by the tragic death, and she has asked those who worked on the case for a "full explanation".

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Senior coroner of west London Chinyere Inyama said at West London Coroner's Court that the inquest is now adjourned until "a date to be fixed".

After taking his seat, he said: "This was to be the resumed inquest touching upon the death of Eleanor de Freitas who died on April 4 2014...

"Yesterday there was an announcement by Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, that she'd look into the case of Eleanor de Freitas personally."

He said he was waiting on written confirmation of her remit, which he expects to have by Monday.

The adjournment comes shortly after Ms Saunders described the case the young woman was involved in before her death as "one of the most difficult I have seen".

In a statement, Ms Saunders said: "I am very saddened by the tragic death of Eleanor de Freitas.

"I have asked the team which dealt with this case for a full explanation which addresses all of the de Freitas family's concerns.

"I appreciate the family's unease, which is why I am looking at this personally in order to satisfy myself of the detail surrounding all the stages of the case.

"Prosecuting cases of perverting the course of justice in connection with an alleged false rape allegation is rare, extremely difficult and always complex and sensitive.

"This case was one of the most difficult I have seen. To say any more at this stage would be inappropriate until I can answer the de Freitas family's concerns fully and directly."

She added: "I would welcome the opportunity then to meet with Eleanor's family to discuss the case and the law surrounding it."

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Ms de Freitas's father, David, told the Guardian his daughter was "a vulnerable young woman, diagnosed with bipolar, who made a complaint of rape as a result of which she herself became the subject of legal proceedings".

He added: "This was despite the fact the police did not believe there to be a case against her.

"There are very serious implications for the reporting of rape cases if victims fear that they may themselves end up the subject of a prosecution if their evidence is in any way inconsistent. It is of the utmost importance that the CPS consider very carefully whether such cases are in the public interest."

He said "the system of fairness in this country has let me down terribly", adding that something needs to be done so that this can never happen again.

Meanwhile, shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry aid the family has made a "very powerful case" for a special inquest under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act.

She said: "I welcome the personal interest that the Director of Public Prosecutions is taking in this tragic case.

"It shows she is aware of the extreme care and sensitivity that prosecutors should take with regard to these kinds of cases.

"However, the family of Eleanor de Freitas have made a very powerful case for a special inquest under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act and I support them in this.

"They deserve independent answers, not just an explanation from the CPS."

Mr De Freitas told the BBC he thought Ms Saunders' decision to personally investigate was "an appropriate response", but added: "It falls into the category of being a little too little too late."

He thinks the proper way forward is to have a full Article 2 inquest where all the matters surrounding the death are brought out into the open and "examined so that there are lessons learned".

Mr De Freitas said the CPS decision to continue with the prosecution against his daughter in which she was accused of making a false rape allegation had a "devastating" impact on her.

He said the prospect of giving evidence in court "was preying on her mind constantly".

Both Victim Support and Justice for Women have written to Ms Saunders about the case.

Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive of Victim Support, expressed concern about someone who has been accused of rape being able to bring a private prosecution against the complainant.

He said: "This is a tragic and troubling case which raises broader concerns about the use of private prosecutions against rape complainants and whether or not they are fair and appropriate in such circumstances.

"As a charity which supports hundreds of victims of rape and serious sexual assault every year, we know how much courage it takes for someone to come forward and make an allegation.

"We are concerned in principle about someone who has been accused of rape being able to bring a private prosecution against the complainant because this allows that individual to use the law to do something guaranteed to intimidate their accuser."

Family lawyer Harriet Wistrich said after the short hearing: "We're very pleased that the inquest has been adjourned following the announcement of the Director of Public Prosecution's investigation.

"We note that Alison Saunders's indication is in her statement that she wishes to meet with the family and we look forward to meeting with her in order to ask questions, to provide her with our perspective and to learn more about CPS decision-making.

"And, in essence, once we've done that, we hope that the inquiry will be broad and will look into the very serious issues that we've sought to raise."

Mr de Freitas stood beside the lawyer but did not want to speak because he was tired after the day's events.

However, he did say he was "encouraged" following Ms Saunders' announcement but that it felt like "too little, too late".

He added: "I welcome it. I just hope that something of substance can come from it."

Meanwhile, Emily Thornberry, shadow attorney general, said the family has made a "very powerful case" for a special inquest under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act.

She said: "I welcome the personal interest that the director of public prosecutions is taking in this tragic case.

"It shows she is aware of the extreme care and sensitivity that prosecutors should take with regard to these kinds of cases.

"However, the family of Eleanor de Freitas have made a very powerful case for a special inquest under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act and I support them in this.

"They deserve independent answers, not just an explanation from the CPS."

Both Victim Support and Justice for Women have written to Ms Saunders about the case.

Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive of Victim Support, expressed concern about someone who has been accused of rape being able to bring a private prosecution against the complainant.

He said: "This is a tragic and troubling case which raises broader concerns about the use of private prosecutions against rape complainants and whether or not they are fair and appropriate in such circumstances.

"As a charity which supports hundreds of victims of rape and serious sexual assault every year, we know how much courage it takes for someone to come forward and make an allegation.

"We are concerned in principle about someone who has been accused of rape being able to bring a private prosecution against the complainant because this allows that individual to use the law to do something guaranteed to intimidate their accuser."

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