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Speaking out Brave campaigner calls for reform of prosecution of sex assault cases

"I always tell victims there is a 90 per cent chance of no one being convicted"

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Lucy Monaghan, from the Antrim Road waived her right to anonymity to talk about how she was treated by police and prosecutors after reporting her alleged rape in 2015.

Lucy Monaghan, from the Antrim Road waived her right to anonymity to talk about how she was treated by police and prosecutors after reporting her alleged rape in 2015.

Lucy Monaghan, from the Antrim Road waived her right to anonymity to talk about how she was treated by police and prosecutors after reporting her alleged rape in 2015.

Campaigner Lucy Monaghan has set her sights on improving Northern Ireland’s appalling rape statistics.

She’s urged survivors of sexual attacks to come forward despite her own experience when she made a complaint.

The Belfast woman has already helped change how victims are treated after taking part in the ground-breaking Gillen Review, set up following the Ulster rugby rape trial.

It earned her a place on the BBC’s 2020 list of most inspiring and influential women in the world, alongside stars like Jane Fonda, chosen for her social activism, and UN special ambassador Michelle Yeoh.

But it’s an accolade Lucy struggles to feel she deserves.

When she made an allegation of rape in 2015, her treatment at the hands of police and prosecutors undermined her trust in the authorities but set her on her campaign to overhaul the legal system.

“The code for prosecutors for rape here says it is such a serious offence it must be treated seriously,” says Lucy.

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Lucy Monaghan, from the Antrim Road waived her right to anonymity to talk about how she was treated by police and prosecutors after reporting her alleged rape in 2015.

Lucy Monaghan, from the Antrim Road waived her right to anonymity to talk about how she was treated by police and prosecutors after reporting her alleged rape in 2015.

Lucy Monaghan, from the Antrim Road waived her right to anonymity to talk about how she was treated by police and prosecutors after reporting her alleged rape in 2015.

“There were 1,684 files went forward to the PPS in 2019 and 20 of them were convicted in the Crown Court.

“Over 1,200 had no prosecution because 99.4 per cent of them aren’t meeting the test for prosecution, because it’s too high. It’s far too high. It’s so wrong.”

The 33-year-old challenged the decision not to prosecute her alleged attacker by making a complaint to the Police Ombudsman and asking the Public Prosecution Service to investigate and review its decision not to proceed.

When the PPS made that decision it didn’t have her toxicology report, which would have confirmed that she had no alcohol in her system, but she did have three different types of benzodiazepines, which she hadn’t taken herself. Her alleged attacker claimed she was drunk.

The report only emerged three years after she made her initial complaint to the PSNI.

The alleged attack took place during the day after a meeting in business premises, when Lucy felt unwell after drinking a cup of coffee. She woke eight hours later in the alleged attacker’s home, with extensive bruising.

“The PPS heavily relied on the fact that I was drunk, but there was no alcohol in my blood at all, but that didn’t come out until 2018,” she says.

“The PPS made their decision without a lot of things – witness statements, forensics, toxicology.

“I think that’s why I fought so much. I wasn’t on a night out. I didn’t fancy anyone. I wasn’t flirting. I wasn’t texting, I have a boyfriend. I wasn’t drinking.”

As a result of her complaint to the Police Ombudsman an officer was disciplined. The PPS has stuck by its decision.

For Lucy, who until recently worked for the Red Cross assisting patient discharge from the RVH, the experience set her on the path of helping other people.

She went into the Gillen Review, led by Sir John Gillen, with six key points and was delighted when her views were taken on board when he published his report in 2019.

“He made over 200 recommendations. He added in legal representation for the victim which is something I really campaigned for. It’s included up until the trial which I think should be amended, to continue through the trial. It’s a great change and he stuck by his word,” she says.

The review was launched after the Ulster rugby rape trial, in which players including Paddy Jackson and Stuart Oldham were acquitted. It became a public and social media spectacle when the complainant was named online, and she was the subject of speculation and abuse.

Lucy hopes the complainant knows the impact her experience had on future rape trials, including the recommendation that public access to the court hearings is curtailed.

“I don’t know if she realises what she’s done. I hope she feels she did the right thing.”

When the call came a few weeks ago to tell Lucy she had been included in the BBC’s 100 most influential women she initially didn’t believe it, and then felt unworthy of it.

“Sometimes it’s a wee bit hard to believe, so I don’t think that it’s sunk in for me yet, or else I just don’t believe I’m worthy of it.

“Some days I’m good and other days I’m not so good. You lose your trust and your faith in everyone around you and I think that’s to do with the authorities because you feel disbelieved.

“Then you are constantly seeking affirmation from other people for the smallest of things. I wouldn’t have been that kind of person before, I was very headstrong, but you question every aspect of yourself and that’s horrible to live with.”

Lucy plans to set up her own charity helping victims of sexual attacks and says education is the key.

She believes the only way to change attitudes towards rape is to help young people recognise what is abuse and identify those who pose a threat to them.

“I think some things have to take place in your life, whether they be good things or bad things to set you on your correct path and the universe will keep throwing things at you until you’re on that path. That’s how I try and look at it.

“I would like to change more laws. I see myself as a catalyst for improving the criminal justice system for rape and that’s the only method I can do it through.

“I would like to educate society on a preventative approach to rape. It’s us and our attitudes that we need to change.”

She has been quietly helping survivors through the legal process and is blunt about what lies ahead for them.

“I always tell victims I meet from the outset there’s a 90 per cent chance of no one being convicted. You can’t lie to them.

“I still say to them to go to the police. That’s the hardest part. They need to come forward but the process that lies ahead of them is horrendous.

“And I will help them in any way that I can,” says Lucy.

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