Woman wins 80,000 from man cleared of rape

By / October 20, 2018
Image copyright PA
Image caption Stephen Coxen had denied the rape charges against him and the case was found not proven in a criminal court

A woman has won £80,000 in damages from a man who had been cleared of raping her after a night out in Fife.

The woman, who cannot be named, had sued Stephen Coxen, who is now 23, from Bury in Greater Manchester.

The second year student said she was raped after a night out in St Andrews in 2013 by Mr Coxen, who she had met earlier in the evening.

Mr Coxen had denied the charges and in November 2015 a jury found the case against him not proven.

But now, in a case understood to be the first of its kind in Scotland, a sheriff in a civil action has ruled Mr Coxen raped the woman, known as Miss M, and demanded he pay damages.

The civil action was heard at the Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh.

Civil cases require a lower standard of proof than criminal cases, with judgements made on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt.

‘Compelling and persuasive’

Sheriff Robert Weir said the evidence from Miss M, who is now 23, had been “cogent, compelling and persuasive”.

He said that Mr Coxen took advantage of her when she was incapable of giving meaningful consent because of the effects of alcohol.

Image caption The woman bringing the case was a student at the University of St Andrews

The sheriff said Miss M had been distressed and had resisted but Mr Coxen had continued to rape her.

He agreed that she should be paid £80,000 in damages.

Miss M told BBC Scotland it was highly unlikely she would see any of the money as it would be clawed back to pay legal costs.

She said: “The thing that has happened from the civil trial is that people will see the type of person that Stephen Coxen is.”

Miss M said: “After being let down in the criminal process and having such a difficult fight to take the civil action to court in the first place I think shock is the word.

“It’s not just me that’s been through this journey for the past five years, it has had an impact on my family and friends.”

Long journey

She said did not know whether the sheriff’s decision would bring “closure” but it was some form of justice.

“It’s been a long journey to receive this justice and it is disappointing that it took a civil hearing following a criminal trial but I am obviously very relieved that now someone has listened and acknowledged that the actions of Stephen Coxen were wrong and unlawful.”

Mr Coxen’s lawyer, Mark Thorley, said: “He (Stephen Coxen) is considering the judgement and will look at his options thereafter.”

The personal injury court judgment follows a seven-day hearing in June.

The sheriff heard that Mr Coxen, who was then 18, had driven up from Manchester in September 2013 to visit a friend who was beginning his second year at St Andrews University.

Mr Coxen met Miss M, who was an 18-year-old student, at the Lizard Lounge in the town.

The judgment said she had been drinking heavily at a party but was still able to gain entry to the club at about midnight.

At some point after her arrival, she is reported to have been seen kissing with Mr Coxen in the club’s smoking lounge.

Rang the buzzer

Mr Coxen is then said to have been involved in an altercation and was ejected from the premises close to 2am.

Miss M said she could not remember leaving the nightclub and her next memory was standing at the gates outside her flat.

She described turning to find that she was with someone and felt panicked because she did not know who the person was.

Miss M said she rang the buzzer, hoping that her flatmates would answer.

Mr Coxen became frustrated as she “played for time”, searching in her bag for the house keys.

Miss M then dropped her keys and Mr Coxen pushed her away when she tried to pick them up.

He unlocked the gate himself and used the keys to gain entry to the flat, where he raped her.

Mr Coxen is said to have left the flat soon after.

Over the next few months, Miss M is said to have been prescribed a number of different types of medication to deal with depression, panic attacks and sleep disturbance.

She reported the attack in January 2014.

Mr Coxen denied rape and said they had consensual sex.

Let down

Simon Di Rollo QC, who represented Miss M during the civil case, said she was an “extremely courageous woman”.

“It is understandable that she found it impossible to come to terms with the verdict of the jury in the criminal proceedings,” he said.

“Although the findings by the sheriff in these civil proceedings are of assistance, there can be no doubt that her experience of the criminal justice system was unsatisfactory.

“Unfortunately, that is not as unusual as it should be. I think that everyone must strive to ensure that, so far as is possible, others in the future do not feel as let down as she did.”

Image copyright SNS and Ciaran Donnelly
Image caption David Robertson (left) and David Goodwillie faced a civil action after a decision not to prosecute them

Last year, another woman, Denise Clair, won a civil case against footballers David Goodwillie and David Robertson.

But the case was different as Ms Clair, who waived her right to anonymity, brought the civil action after the Crown had decided against prosecuting the pair in the criminal courts.

The judge in the civil court found the rapes had happened and awarded Ms Clair £100,000 damages from the men.

Miss M told BBC Scotland she had decided to mount her civil case in 2016, which was supported by the Scottish Legal Aid Board, before Ms Clair’s case became public knowledge.

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