Case study: ‘Type of underwear’ influenced CPS decision to drop rape case

Spanx by John at Flickr

Case study: Spanx control pants influenced no further action decision

After Suzanne [not her real name] was raped by her partner in December 2012 she was shocked to discover that her underwear was partly to blame for the case being dropped by the CPS.

Suzanne had been in a sexual relationship with her partner, and was planning for him to stay the night, and to have sex with him, until his mood became aggressive late that evening.

They had a row while in his car outside her house, after which he followed her into the house and raped her, leaving the house immediately afterwards.

Related story: Rape convictions at four year low despite attempts to bring more cases to court

The CPS has given different reasons for dropping the case, but one laid out in a letter to Suzanne was the most shocking.

She received a letter from a CPS lawyer in September 2013 which said: ‘I have taken into account all the surrounding circumstances, including the exchange of text messages between you before and after the incident.

‘I have also considered your account of the incident, particularly bearing in mind the type of underwear that you had on at the time,’ the letter added.

‘I was wearing Spanx [tummy] control pants,’  Suzanne says. ‘They were about this big.’ She measures out a foot with her hands. ‘I don’t know what he was thinking.’

She appealed the decision and on October 15 2013 a CPS prosecutions manager admitted in a letter that the previous lawyer ‘made an unnecessary reference to the underwear that you were wearing which on my consideration of the evidence has absolutely no relevance to the issue in this investigation’.

I have also considered your account of the incident, particularly bearing in mind the type of underwear that you had on at the time.
CPS solicitor

But he added that the decision not to prosecute had been correct.

‘In interview he [the suspect] gave a very full account of the night including, he asserted, a very short call during which he said that you asked him to come back and why had he gone? He then said that he switched his phone off.

‘The phone data I have supports this version of events in that there was a short call made by you to him,’ the manager wrote to Suzanne.

Suzanne agreed that she made the call but disputes what was said. ‘I asked him why he had raped me,’ she says.

Because the telephone data only recorded the time and length of the call and not what was said it was not sufficient to support either version.

When challenged on whether the phone data was enough to support the suspect’s version of events a CPS spokesman told the Bureau: ‘This reference takes into account all of the communications between the complainant and suspect, including text messages, rather than looking at one phone call in isolation. In this context, the evidence tended to support the account given by the suspect.’

The CPS declined to respond to a question about whether earlier decisions on rape cases by the lawyer who made the initial decision not to take the case to prosecution, have been reviewed following the inappropriate reference to the victim’s underwear.