A landmark victory: Woman wins libel case against man who sexually assaulted her and then sued

A landmark victory: Woman wins libel case against man who sexually assaulted her and then sued

A survivor of sexual assault has won a landmark legal case in the UK after the man who attacked her sued her for libel claiming she was lying. 

Nina Cresswell was sexually assaulted in 2011 as she walked home after a night out. The next morning she reported the incident to the police, but after interviewing her they closed the investigation and recorded that no crime had been committed.

In 2020, Cresswell spoke publicly about the assault for the first time, naming her attacker as William Hay on her blog and social media posts. She also sent an email to Hay’s girlfriend telling her about the incident. He responded by suing Cresswell for libel. 

Following Cresswell’s defence at the Royal Courts of Justice in February this year, the judge ruled that she was able to prove the claimant had sexually assaulted her, and the statements she had made were a matter of public interest. 

A legal precedent for sexual assault survivors

The non-profit Good Law Project funded Cresswell’s legal representation and campaigned on her behalf, aiming to set a precedent for women who speak out against sexual violence.

In England and Wales one in four women are sexually assaulted, and figures released by the Office for National Statistics earlier this year show that sexual offences are at the highest levels ever recorded. But while violence against women is reaching epidemic levels, rates for convictions are at record lows, with only 1.3% of rape cases recorded by police resulting in a suspect being charged. 

In a statement following the court ruling, Good Law Project said that “far too many women are ignored by the criminal justice system and don’t get support to bring rape cases forward – and then when they do they are being sued, to try and silence them.” 

The ruling has “far reaching and beneficial effects for victims of sexual violence who are sued after speaking their truths,” it continued. 

“This gives much-needed support and guidance to women who seek to name their attackers to protect others. It’s the first such judgement, clarifying the law for victims of assault who have been silenced by their abusers and failed by the police.” 

Read more: 

How UK police are failing to protect women

UN calls for justice as countries still fail rape survivors

Where do women turn if they can’t trust the police?

Featured image: Nina Cresswell. Photo: The Good Law Project

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