Nick Johnson secures acquittal in York river rape case

February 19, 2015

Yesterday Nick Johnson, instructed by Howard & Byrne solicitors in York, secured acquittals after a 7 day trial concerning allegations of sexually assaulting and raping a 16 year old girl on the riverbank by Lendal Bridge in York. His client, a 32 year old Polish national, was alleged to have stalked the girl through parts of the city before abducting her when her friend’s back was turned and raping her in a secluded spot. The case was highly topical in legal terms, as the issue at the heart of the case was her capacity to consent, the girl having been drinking to excess that evening.

The question of incapacity to consent through drink or drugs was the focus of a National Rape Conference last month. At the conference, the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said, “It is a crime for a rapist to target someone who is no longer capable of consenting to sex through drink…We want police and prosecutors to make sure they ask in every case where consent is the issue – how did the suspect know the complainant was saying yes and doing so freely and knowingly?”

Commenting on the case, Nick said, “The CPS intend to try 30% more rape cases than in 2012-13, in other words around 500 extra rape trials a year. Cases such as this one, where the capacity of a young complainant to consent is in issue, require very sensitive handling. Juries are being directed to consider closely questions such as the steps taken to ensure consent was given, evidence of capacity to make choices at the material time and the reasonableness of any belief that consent is being given. The point at which freedom and capacity to consent are lost is a classic issue for juries to decide on the facts of each individual case. The outcome in this case came from a great deal of hard work from all involved in the defence.”