In a historic victory, a woman has become the first to win a rape case in a civil, not criminal, court in Scotland.

Words by Rosie Benson

Denise Clair, a 30-year-old mother of one, was left ‘devastated’ when the criminal justice system decided not to prosecute footballers David Goodwillie and David Robertson, who allegedly raped her in the early hours of January 2nd, 2011.

Clair stated that after meeting Robertson in a pub, her next recollection is waking up the following morning in a house she did not recognize. She was naked, in pain, and could not find her clothes, the Daily Mail reported.

Clair said, ‘I seemed to be running about the house in a panic. I ran into every single room to see if I could make sense of my surroundings.’

She was 24 at the time, and maintained that she was incapable of agreeing to sex because she was drunk and could not remember what happened. Clair also said that the experience left her with suicidal thoughts, and unable to form an intimate relationship until five years later.

Although both footballers stated that the sex was consensual, Lord Armstrong ruled that Clair could not consent because of the ‘phenomenon of alcoholic blackout.’

Lord Armstrong also stated that he found Clair to be ‘persuasive and compelling,’ and judged that Goodwillie and Robertson were not credible or reliable witnesses. Clair was subsequently awarded £100,000 in damages.

Rape case

Why is this so important?

It matters because nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year, yet only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report it to the police (Rape Crisis UK). In 2016, The Guardian found that despite reported rapes in England and Wales doubling in four years, conviction rates were actually falling proportionally.

This case gives hope that rape victims who have been let down by the criminal justice system, may be able to pursue a successful case in a civil court. In a civil case a judge must decide that the accused committed the act on the balance of probability, and not beyond reasonable doubt, as in a criminal court.

Rape Crisis Scotland said the ‘landmark case’, the first of its kind in Scotland, would broaden access to justice. Simon Di Rollo, QC, senior counsel for Ms Clair, said: ‘It was incredibly brave of Ms Clair to have brought the action, in which, unlike in a criminal case, she did not enjoy anonymity,’ The Times reported.

Clair’s lawyer, Cameron Fyfe, told reporters: ‘I am delighted for Denise. She has shown great courage throughout the case. Her determination may encourage other victims who feel they have been let down by the criminal system to turn to the civil court for a remedy.’

For further information and support visit Rape Crisis’ website here.

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