Portsmouth grandmother's horror as alleged would-be rapist faces 'no further action'

A GRANDMOTHER pinned down in a terrifying sex attack by a would-be rapist has told how she bravely fought him off only for him to evade justice.

Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 6:05 am

Traumatised Pauline Hopkins, 56, battled her alleged attacker as he groped her and ripped buttons off her shirt trying to strip and rape her at Eastney seafront.

Waiving her anonymity, cleaner Pauline told of her horrific ordeal as figures show a drop in Hampshire’s rape conviction rate and officers have admitted the proportion of people referred to the Crown Prosecution Service is ‘too low’.

Pauline wept as she told The News how she leapt from the man’s car when he hit a wall after she accepted a lift home from him at around 3.30am following a night out at in Palmerston Road in Southsea in November last year.

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Grandmother-of-six Pauline Hopkins, 56, pictured at home in Baffins, Portsmouth, has spoken about an attempted rape she alleges against a man who gave her a lift home after a night out. Picture: Sarah Standing (130220-7474)

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Police were called when a taxi as she fought him off in the street. In the days that followed she gave a statement, a video statement and identified him in line-up.

DNA was taken. She was warned not to tell anyone about the incident, or post on social media. Pauline kept it secret. Hours later she was at work cleaning pubs.

Her word against his

Grandmother-of-six Pauline Hopkins, 56, pictured in Baffins. Pauline with the shirt she was wearing on the night which has three missing buttons. Picture: Sarah Standing (130220-7509)

Then the police dropped a bombshell. The man, who Baffins mum-of-two Pauline does not know, would face no further action. It was her word against his.

Instead, he was prosecuted and convicted for drink-driving while banned. She thought police said he was jailed. But he received a 16-week suspended term.

‘There’s justice but where’s mine?’ grandmother-of-six Pauline said. ‘He keeps me awake at night. I drink to keep myself asleep.

‘We’ve got all the evidence. It was cut and clean really. Then he’s got away with it.

‘It was a terrible experience. It was traumatic and people need to know about it. It’s not something you can brush off lightly.

‘He could’ve killed me. He didn’t but that didn’t make it any better for me.

‘I’ve tried to take my own life. It feels like a bad dream.’

Proportion of offenders referred to prosecutors is ‘too low’

DCI John McGonigle said all rape cases are investigated ‘thoroughly and professionally, keeping the victims at the heart of everything we do’.

Pauline’s case comes as Hampshire police admit the proportion of ‘charged or summonsed for rape or serious sexual assault is too low,’ a watchdog report said.

In Hampshire there were 1,971 rapes recorded in 2019, a 237 per cent increase on 2014’s figures. Of those, 109 were referred to prosecutors and 42 people were charged - a 62 per cent decrease from 2014. There were 32 convictions.

Hampshire police said there was ‘insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of prosecution’ in Pauline’s case.

But she has been living in fear from the moment she got in his car - with Pauline begging him to stop speeding only to be greeted with an ‘evil grin’.

She said: ‘I said “ease up, you’re going to kill us”. He looked at me with a grin, an evil grin. I said “you need to slow down” but he just put his foot down.

‘We hit the wall out at the seafront. The car slowed. He was trying to get it back in gear.

‘I thought that was my chance to get out. I did the seatbelt and legged it - then he ran after me.

Alleged attacker chased grandmother-of-six down the street

A car went by and Pauline screamed for help - but to no avail as the man caught her up. She said: ‘He was dragging me away from the road.

‘I saw my life flash in front of me. I thought: “he’s going to kill me”.’

Pauline added: ‘I was screaming and crying. He put his hand on my mouth and he put his hand down my throat and pulled me off the road and he shoved me down some steps.

‘He was trying to rip my clothes off me. He was all over my breasts.

‘I thought he was going to kill me. I had my phone in my hand. I was trying to dial my son.

‘We were fighting over that - I had bruises all over my arms and legs.’

Passing taxi passenger helped

She added: ‘I don’t know where I got the strength to get him off me. I fought him off - I had enough bruises.

‘Something inside me snapped. I laid on the steps and looked up and thought “I’m not having this”.

Her assailant, who cannot be named, had taken her phone. Pauline snatched it back, and exhausted from the fight tried to calm him down.

By this time they were in the middle of the road and a taxi stopped. Pauline leapt inside and dialled 999 before handing over to a passenger who spoke with police.

The man was arrested having fled in his car. Police took Pauline home, where she slept for two hours and went to clean pubs for work.

Pauline said: ‘I’m angry, and I feel disgusted with myself.’

She blames herself for getting in his car, but knows the attack was not her fault. Pauline is now due to get counselling.

Victims’ right to review could pave way to prosecution

Her only option for getting justice is asking for a victims’ right to review. This would see police look again at their decision not to refer the case.

It could result in a CPS referral. But nothing guarantees a prosecution.

Shonagh Dillon, from Aurora New Dawn, which supports survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence and stalking, said: ‘We understand that nationally victims and survivors are struggling to get justice from the criminal justice system, that is why as members of End Violence Against Women coalition we are very supportive of their campaigns to challenge the state on the effective decriminalising of rape.

‘We would always advise survivors to challenge the police and or the CPS on a victims right to review.

‘Most importantly we want to say to survivors that there are organisations out there that will unequivocally believe them and support them in their journey, regardless of the response from the criminal justice system.’

Police are ‘compassionate and professional’

DCI John McGonigle said: ‘Reporting sexual offences takes an enormous amount of courage, and we commend the bravery of victims who have taken the steps to report incidents to us.

‘We take all allegations of sexual offences very seriously. In all cases, officers seek to provide a compassionate and professional response to victims and to conduct a thorough investigation.

‘We also signpost victims to ongoing support with our partner agencies as we know the devastating impact such crimes can have on a person’s life.

‘We’re constantly looking to improve our service to victims; we recognise that the police is only one part of the justice system and it’s important that we provide the best service we can and investigate all allegations thoroughly and professionally, keeping the victims at the heart of everything we do.’

In the 12 months to February last year, Hampshire brought offenders to justice in less than three per cent of cases.

In a bid to bolster its response, the force is increasing the number of staff in its sex offence investigation units and it now has a detective inspector in the CPS full time.

Get support

Portsmouth abuse and rape counselling service: Women’s helpline - (023) 9266 9511. Men’s helpline - (023) 9266 9516. The lines are open Monday 1pm-3pm, and Wednesday and Friday 7pm-10pm.

Aurora New Dawn helpline (023) 9247 9254.