Charities hail “broadening of justice” as footballers ruled rapists are forced to pay civil costs

17/01/2017
Nathanael Williams

Campaigners hail outcome as landmark ruling in Scotland’s first civil action for damages for rape

CHARITIES in Scotland have hailed the civil court judgement forcing two footballers to pay costs to a 30 year old woman who, the judge ruled, they raped.

David Goodwillie and David Robertson, both footballers who formerly played for Dundee United, were instructed by the Court of Session in Edinburgh to pay £100,000 to the unnamed woman.

The incident, which took place in 2011, was dropped by the crown office that year and never went to a criminal trial. However it was pursued the survivor with civil action, won by her on the basis of the two men not being considered “credible or reliable witnesses” by the civil court judge.

“We do think there are questions for the Crown to answer about why they dropped this case, and their willingness to prosecute in cases where someone is so drunk they do not have the capacity to consent.” Sandy Brindley

In response to the judgement Sandy Brindley, national co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) said: “This is a landmark case which broadens access to justice in Scotland. The majority of rapes reported to the police never make it to court, and rape complainers are left feeling devastated and let down by the criminal justice process.

“The woman in this case should be commended for her bravery and courage in pursuing this case in the face of significant challenges.  She was left feeling very let down by the Crown Office, who dropped criminal proceedings against her rapists. Often, women in these circumstances tell us that they just want someone to believe them, and to acknowledge that what happened to them was rape.”

In the case, it was judged that Goodwillie and Robertson had no reason to believe consent had been given for any sexual interaction to occur between themselves and the 30 year old. 

Lord Armstrong, who presided over the civil case, said that despite there being evidence of flirtation between the woman and Robertson earlier in the evening of 2 January 2011, this did not constitute consent of any kind.

“The mere fact of sexual attraction does not preclude rape”, he added.

Cowdenbeath football club, which Robertson plays for, was unavailable for comment. Goodwillie, who until recently was playing in England for Plymouth Argyle, has been stopped from playing pending further investigation by the club.

“This is a landmark case which broadens access to justice in Scotland.” Sandy Brindley

A club spokesperson did not want to answer questions about the case, but refered CommonSpace to a statement on the clubs website

It read: “We note today’s judgment from the Court of Session in Edinburgh regarding David Goodwillie. We await the full report, which we will consider in detail before making any comment. Until such time, David Goodwillie will not be selected to play for Plymouth Argyle.”

Reflecting on the possible breakthrough case, Brindley said: “We think that we will see more and more rape complainers who feel let down by the criminal justice system turning to the civil system in their search for justice.  Steps must be taken to ensure that key protections, such as anonymity and protection from cross-examination by the accused, are in place within the civil justice system for these cases. 

“We appreciate that the burden of proof is different in civil justice compared to criminal justice, but we do think there are questions for the Crown to answer about why they dropped this case, and their willingness to prosecute in cases where someone is so drunk they do not have the capacity to consent.”  

Picture courtesy of Chris Guy

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