THE British teenager, who had made rape allegations against 12 Israeli youths, will be held in custody until August 19. This was the date given by the judge for a new hearing, after the Cypriot lawyer representing her announced that he was withdrawing from the case because he had disagreed with the teenager’s family on the way the case should be handled.
The girl, who had withdrawn her allegations of being the victim of gang rape and was held for making a false statement, last weekend claimed that she had been pressured by police to withdraw her complaint and that she had indeed been raped. This is the line her new defence lawyer, from the campaign group Justice Abroad, is set to take. He issued a statement saying the “confession was obtained under oppression, given the threats made.”
How the case is conducted in the courts is not for us to say, but we doubt the Cyprus police will come out of this in a positive light. Already, in the statement he issued, the British lawyer said that the young woman “was not cautioned and was not given access to a lawyer as was her right under the European Convention of Human Rights.” Considering this was a 19-year-old, with little knowledge or experience of the law, should the police not have ensured that she had a lawyer with her before making the statement, retracting her claims?
The British lawyer claimed in his statement that the police officer handling the case “told her to write a confession and if she did not do so he would arrest her friends in Cyprus for conspiracy”. The police spokesman dismissed the accusations as “baseless”, insisting that the teenager “freely asked to make a second deposition in which she retracted everything that she had claimed in the first she had made.”
In short, it is now the word of the police against that of the teenager, with the former in a weak position, considering they were happy to take the second deposition without the teenager consulting a lawyer first.
The police would have been able to prove that the second statement had been given voluntarily if the actual questioning was filmed or recorded, but such practices that are standard procedure for most police forces have yet to arrive in Cyprus.
When Scotland Yard officers arrived in Cyprus a few months ago to assist with investigation of the Metaxas murders they were shocked to discover that the questioning was not videoed. The force is still writing down statements from suspects, instead of using video as it should.
Should the attorney-general not have introduced this practice to assist both investigators and protect those being questioned? Now the police could suffer another embarrassment because of this inexcusable failure to modernise police questioning procedures.