A rare, nay, freak occurrence.

See this guy? A week ago he raped a woman jogger on a beach 50 km or so to the south of Melbourne, prompting fears that he would strike again.

Detective Sergeant Peter Dodemaide, from the sexual crimes squad described the rape as “cowardly and callous” and said police were worried the man would reoffend.

“We are very worried about him re-offending,” he said. [Yes, that Monty Python delivery is really how The Age wrote it – AE]

“His behaviour is indicative of somebody who may commit further sexual offences.”

Detective Sergeant Dodemaide said women should avoid running in the dark and in secluded areas.

“My advice to women, if they have to run alone, is to make sure that you are aware of your surroundings, keep your wits about you at all times,” he said.

JuliaM’s ambushy whiskers are probably twitching at this point, and with very good reason because today we find out that the police now believe that the attacker has a hitherto undisclosed identifying feature, though not one that is likely to lead to his arrest: non-existence.

Police this morning said detectives had completed their investigation and were now satisfied no such event happened.

“Police wish to allay community fears and reinforce the fact that this incident did not occur and there is no one sought in relation to the matter,” a police spokeswoman said.

Of course the police helped stir those fears up in the first place, though in fairness it’s hard to blame them. They’re supposed to prevent crime and warning people is obviously a necessary part of that, and if the report they’ve been given by the woman gives them reason to think a repeat offence could happen any time they’d be criticised for not doing their job if they sat on their hands. No, you can’t really blame the police for reacting as they would if there really had been a rape, and so there’s only one person really responsible for causing alarm and wasting everybody’s time, not to mention trivialising the experiences of genuine rape victims. And for what? What the hell did think she was going to get out of it? Her names in the papers? Anonymity prevents that. Is it just attention seeking? Perhaps a trick cyclist could explain it because I’m at a complete loss.

And of course the other thing that she may not have fully considered is that some guy’s life might easily have been blighted by this, so it’s gratifying to see that the police were able to satisfy themselves that her story was made up before charging off and arresting some lad with bad hair and skin and what looks like a Carlton Football Club hat. When that happens the only real victim is the poor bastard in the cells wondering how the hell he’s going to convince everyone – not just the police and maybe the court but in his wider life as well – that he’s not a rapist. It took the police a week to decide that there was no attack in the first place, and if someone matching the description had just happened to walk past a cop a day or two after the attack he could easily have found himself under arrest. Fortunately it never got that far in this case, and if it had it seems likely that the police would have reached the same conclusion anyway and released any arrestee expressing many apologies and certainties that he was in fact innocent all along, but that sort of accusation probably never quite goes away. However, recent history shows that that’s by no means certain, and I suspect it’s even more likely to go much further when a woman points the finger at someone she actually has met and maybe has slept with, as JuliaM’s ever increasing collection shows.

Julia, who will probably be feeling less than sororal towards this still unnamed 21 year old, might be cheered to hear that the police are no more keen on false rape reports than anyone else. As in the Port Melbourne case a few months back, Victoria Police intend to charge her.

“The 21-year-old woman is expected to be charged on summons with making a false report to police.”

A charge of making a false report in Victoria carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for a year or 12 ‘penalty units’ (fines have a set amount per unit, currently $119.45) meaning nearly $1,440, and either of those can be accompanied by an order to reimburse the police for the costs of the investigation, which is likely to be thousands as well. Even if they rarely if ever apply the full weight of that law to people making false reports for rape the principle of it is completely appropriate if you ask me. The police still have to prove intent and knowledge that the person knew the report was false and making an honest mistake is a legitimate defence, so it’s doing nothing more than making people responsible for any reports of crime they do make to the police.

But it might seem quite inadequate if someone is actually arrested, charged and imprisoned though. Farah Jama did 15 months for a rape he didn’t commit (it must be said that this was due to a forensic blunder rather than a false report) and was eventually awarded over a half a million dollars in compensation, and though it vindicated his protestations of innocence I doubt any money completely erases the loss of freedom and the stigma of being labelled a rapist. I also doubt that if someone had been arrested and jailed as a result of a false claim of rape that there’d be much hope of getting compensation from the accuser, even is she is morally responsible and ends up compensating the police.

Most of all I doubt any of this ever crossed the mind of Miss Still Unnamed when she was knocking on doors and asking people to call the cops. Does it ever in these circumstances?

Posted on September 21, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on A rare, nay, freak occurrence..

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