A teenager who accused a gang of 10 men of grooming her for sex from the age of 11 tried to kill herself during their trial, it emerged today.
The 17-year-old took an overdose after her first day of evidence, raising more concerns about how vulnerable witnesses are cared for during sex abuse trials.
These 10 men were accused of a string of rapes and other child sex offences against her and others in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
It came after the death of violin teacher Frances Andrade, who killed herself in January after being cross-examined at the trial of a man who was later convicted of abusing her at 14.
In one emotional exchange in court the 48-year-old had said the experience of being called a liar by Michael Brewer’s legal team felt like ‘rape all over again.’
Her son Olly, 21, who sat through her harrowing evidence, said: ‘Being repeatedly called a liar and a fantasist about a horrific part of her life in front of a court challenged her personal integrity and was more than even she could bear.’
In this latest case the teenager had be treated in hospital after her suicide attempt and the trial was stopped for several days in May until she was well enough to return to Oxford Crown Court.
A source close to her said she had taken the pills because of the ‘stress and pressure she was feeling’.
In the arduous 11 days of evidence, the young woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was cross-examined by 10 defence barristers. The jury were unaware that she had attempted to take her own life.
Seven of the men accused of sex crime, aged between 19 to 29, were acquitted after the nine-week trial, The Times said today.
The jury also failed to reach verdicts on 15 charges aimed at the remaining three men, and the CPS said on Friday it would not seek a retrial.
But it still has raised questions about how witnesses are treated, although steps are taken to ease them into the process.
In this case all advocates and the judge removed their wigs while the witness gave evidence, there were regular breaks and steps were taken to ensure those accused and the alleged victims could not cross paths outside the courtroom.
But some say this is not enough.
The mother of a girl who was in the witness box during the trial of an Oxford paedophile ring at the Old Bailey this year said her child’s treatment was ‘nasty, cruel, vindictive and sarcastic’ and she left feeling ‘doubly abused’.
Meanwhile last year a child giving evidence at Stafford Crown Court in a abuse trial had panic attacks and flashbacks after three weeks in the witness box.
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