There are very few prosecutions of men and women who make false allegations of sexual assault. This is mainly because out and out intentionally false allegations are very rare. Even when a deliberately false allegation is made, it’s very difficult to prove that that is the case.
On 26th July 2015, the Daily Mirror reported (in a fairly salacious and sensationalist manner) on the case of Emma Riche-Webber, the 30 year old partner of Colin Palin (56) and Zinzile Adeumuni-Odeke, a 29 year old friend. It seems that on 24th July 2015, both were sent to prison for perverting the course of justice.
Last year, Mr Palin and Ms Riche-Webber were in a relationship and had previously had a ‘threesome’ with Ms Adeumuni-Odeke. In March 2014 Ms Riche-Webber was hosting a birthday party for one of her daughters.
When that had finished and the children were in bed, Mr Palin was invited round. He came along with his dog (this fact will become relevant later). After a few glasses of wine, all three went to bed together (in the tabloid sense).
Afterwards, Mr Palin left, but forgot that his dog was still in the house. The two women refused to let him back in and called the Police, claiming that Mr Palin was harassing him. An officer came and facilitated Mr Palin’s departure with his dog (name and sex unknown).
The next day, however, an allegation of sexual assault had been made by both woman. Mr Palin was arrested and held in police custody for five hours, before being released. It’s unclear, but it seems that the allegation was that Mr Palin had re-entered the flat and then sexually assaulted Ms Adeumuni-Odeke.
Some time later, Ms Riche-Webber admitted that the account had been fabricated. She pleaded guilty to Perverting the Course of Justice. At some point, CCTV proved that part of the account had been fabricated (it’s not clear if this was before or after Ms Riche-Webber’s admission).
Ms Adeumuni-Odeke maintained her account, but was convicted by a jury after a trial
Ms Riche-Webber was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment and Ms Adeumuni-Odeke to 18.
Cases such as these almost always get a custodial sentence. We have a fact sheet on Perverting the Course of Justice, which refers to some of the guidance.
It is not clear why there is the disparity between the two women. Even if Ms Riche-Webber pleaded guilty straight away, that gives a starting point of 12 months. Why is it that she had 2/3 of the sentence of Ms Adeumuni-Odeke?
We don’t know. It may be that there are other factors that we are not aware of. Certainly here the admission of falsity may be seen as extra mitigation.
As to the lengths of the sentence, although both are long, they are less than are now given out for this sort of offending. It may be that this is because the underlying offending (sexual assault rather than rape) is less serious, although this is probably not a full explanation.
It is unlikely that we will see a successful appeal against sentence, although Ms Adeumuni-Odeke may try on the basis of ‘disparity’ – the fact that her sentence was significantly longer than Ms Riche-Webber, and that that difference can’t be explained. This is a very difficult ground to run in the Court of Appeal however.