A British woman found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus has won her appeal to overturn the conviction at the country’s Supreme Court, her lawyers said.
The then 19-year-old, from Derby, was given a suspended four-month jail term in 2020 after a judge found her guilty of public mischief following a trial.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police she was attacked by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room, during a party in Ayia Napa on 17 July 2019, but was charged after signing a retraction statement 10 days later.
The now 21-year-old university student has maintained she was pressured by officers to withdraw the allegation and has vowed to clear her name having flown back to the UK after being sentenced.
Her family said in a statement: “It is a great relief we hear that the authorities in Cyprus have recognised the flaws in their legal process.
“Whilst this decision doesn’t excuse the way she was treated by the police or the judge or those in authority, it does bring with it the hope that my daughter’s suffering will at least bring positive changes in the way that victims of crime are treated.
“Of course, if justice is to be done, an authority would need to pick up on the evidence that was gathered in Cyprus and do with it what should have happened at the outset.”
Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad, who coordinated the appeal, told Sky News they will immediately request a “proper investigation” of the rape allegations by a different police force.
He said the family is “really happy” about the “landmark decision”, adding it is a “very emotional time” for them.
“For the family it’s a big moment, and they put themselves through a loss to establish her innocence,” he said.
He said the implications for women’s rights are substantial, adding: “When it comes to a young lady who complains about sexual offences, the courts need to be even more careful to protect those rights if someone is very vulnerable.
“So we say this is not just a massive decision for her, but it will have repercussions around the world.
“Countries need to look at how they’re dealing with young people and young women who make these complaints.”
During the appeal hearing last year, the woman’s lawyers said her retraction statement should never have been admitted into evidence because it was made by a vulnerable teenager who had spent almost seven hours in a police station without legal representation.
Mr Polak said the trial judge, Michalis Papathanasiou, “was against us even before any evidence was called”.
He said he did not allow any evidence in regards to the rape taking place, shouting seven times: “This is not a rape trial”.
He said Mr Papathanasiou had already decided no rape had taken place and had failed to understand the offence of public mischief, which requires a false statement of a make-believe crime.
The judge was also accused of ignoring defence expert evidence and not taking account police failures in investigating the rape allegations.
When he sentenced the woman in 2020, the judge said the evidence showed she had “lied”, adding: “Her psychological state, her youth, that she has been away from her family, her friends and academic studies this year, this has led me to decide to give her a second chance and suspend the sentence for three years.”
The 12 Israeli men and boys arrested over the incident, aged between 15 and 20 at the time, denied any wrongdoing and were freed.