Police chief calls Sunderland city centre demonstration 'wholly unacceptable and wrong'

Chief Superintendent Ged Noble
Chief Superintendent Ged Noble

A senior police officer has condemned a demonstration planned for Sunderland city centre this weekend as 'wholly unacceptable.'

Six men were arrested after reports that a 26-year-old woman had been attacked at an address in Peel Street overnight between Saturday, September 3 and Sunday, September 4, last year.

The scene in Peel Street in September

The scene in Peel Street in September

However, the CPS took the decision there was 'insufficient evidence' to proceed with the case.

Police confirmed earlier this month that the woman at the centre of the allegations had exercised her right to ask the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to review the evidence in the case.

A series of demonstrations has been held in Sunderland City Centre in support of the woman, with another planned for Saturday.

However, Chief Superintedent Ged Noble said: "It is wholly unacceptable and wrong that this march is to continue.

"The organisers of the campaign are well aware that all legal avenues open to the complainant are being explored by her. It is misleading for the organisers to imply otherwise.

"These marches are not protests about the rights of an individual, with whom Northumbria Police has dealt professionally and properly, but are being organised by people pushing their own agenda to divide our communities.

"Northumbria Police will work with the Council and other partners to prevent that happening here in Sunderland - a city we and its communities are rightly immensely proud of.

"Should the organisers proceed with their plans to demonstrate this weekend, they will do it with imposed conditions to minimise disruption and upset to people and businesses in our fine city."

Commenting on the case in May, acting Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East John Dilworth said: "We are aware of inaccurate articles circulating about this case, primarily on social media, but also in some sections of the mainstream press.

"Some of these articles make damaging claims about the nature of the incident, along with the way in which it was handled by prosecutors and police.

"As prosecutors, it is the role of the CPS to review the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, which requires that the two stage test is met before criminal charges can be brought; an evidential stage and a public interest stage.

"In this case, following a thorough investigation by Northumbria Police, the CPS received a file of evidence in relation to one male suspect in respect of a single allegation of rape. After careful consideration of the evidence, we decided that no further action should be taken against this man because there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

"Five other men were arrested by police in the course of their enquiries, but there was insufficient evidence to justify a referral to prosecutors and they were released with no further action.”

The Echo reported on the assault allegations when they were first investigated by the police and the subsequent arrests and decision not to charge anyone.

Several people have questioned our lack of coverage of the demonstrations, however, the woman at the centre of the case has, on more than one occasion, contacted the newspaper to insist nothing is reported about the matter. She said: “I’d like to make this clear that I do not give any permission for any stories to be wrote about the incident that happened in Peel Street several months back.”

From the time an allegation is made, victims of a wide range of sexual offences are given anonymity for life and the Sexual Offences (Amendment Act) 1992 imposes a lifetime ban on reporting any matter likely to identify the victim of a sexual offence.