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‘We need to change this’ – Sex attack victim says court delays prevented her recovery

PUBLISHED: 11:28 28 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:28 28 January 2019

Michelle Brown, 26, wearing her Not Powerless t-shirt, victim of a sexual assault by Gary Nathan. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Michelle Brown, 26, wearing her Not Powerless t-shirt, victim of a sexual assault by Gary Nathan. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A sex attack victim who was subjected to “12 hours of pure living hell” has described how delays in the case coming to court delayed her recovery.

Gary Nathan. Photo: Norfolk PoliceGary Nathan. Photo: Norfolk Police

Former Reepham High School pupil Michelle Brown, 26, who has bravely waived her right to anonymity, was the victim of a horrific sex attack in which she was tied to her bed and “subjected the most terrible, extreme sexual abuse”.

Gary Nathan, 52, of Pottergate, Norwich, admitted false imprisonment, three counts of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, two sexual assaults and a robbery.

Nathan was ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years in prison before he can be considered for parole when he was sentenced in November last year.

But that was more than 500 days after the offences occurred in May 2017, and Miss Brown said her life was put on hold due to the “ridiculous” delays.

The case had initially been listed for trial on November 15, 2017, but was pulled from the list due to problems between prison and the court.

It was relisted for December 1, 2017 before a new trial date of December 13, 2017 was set.

However the case was further delayed due to the illness of a judge.

A new trial date was set for May 5, 2018, before pleas were entered and a sentencing hearing listed for July 6, 2018.

However the case was pulled from the list again as reports were still being sought from probation.

The sentencing was relisted for October 17, 2018, but was adjourned once more as the judge wanted a more detailed report from probation.

That meant sentencing did not take place until November last year.

The court received a letter from Miss Brown’s GP in November last year to stress the impact the delays were having on her mental health.

The letter stated: “These delays are causing considerable additional distress for Michelle, and I would be grateful if the court could take this into account and ensure that any further delays are avoided.”

In her victim impact statement, which she read out in court before Nathan was sentenced, she said she had endured a “year and a half of pain waiting for justice”.

She said: “The delays in the court process have delayed my recovery”.

Speaking now about the delays, Miss Brown, who said she could not start the process of getting better until the case was over, said: “I found the court system significantly lacking and incompetent.

“I was advised that the reasons for delays included either waiting for reports from probation or reports that were unacceptable. And the delays lasted months.

“I find this disgusting that I, as a victim of a serious offence, was the one constantly let down and caused further distress because of the flaws in our system and incompetent staff unable to complete their work effectively and on time.”

She has taken the issue to Norwich South MP Clive Lewis as she does not want others to suffer as she has.

She said: “We need to change this, so many assaults and rapes go unreported and of the few who report even less have gone to court. It is not victim focused. And things have got to change. “

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our deepest sympathies are with Miss Brown – we understand how difficult the court process can be for victims and know delays can make this worse.

“We do everything we can to ensure cases are dealt with as quickly as possible but some delays are unavoidable, for example if new evidence is put forward or if new, separate charges are brought against the same defendant.

“We are working together across the Criminal Justice System to make justice swifter and more efficient for everyone.”

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