British teen found guilty of lying over 'gang rape' avoids jail

7 January 2020, 10:23

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A 19-year-old British woman found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus has been handed a suspended sentence and will head back to the UK today.

The teenager, who has not been named, was sentenced to a four-month suspended jail term at Famagusta District Court in Paralimni on Tuesday.

When she was sentenced she hugged her family and her legal team and left court weeping, with her head in her hands.

Her family had raised fears she would suffer permanent damage to her mental health if she was sent to prison, having been diagnosed with PTSD.

The teenager arrived at the court
The teenager arrived at the court. Picture: PA

The teenager's mother shouted "she's coming home" to supporters outside court, telling reporters she feels "relieved".

Her lawyer, Lewis Power QC, said she will be returning home on Tuesday.

The teenager's mother said: "On behalf of the family, I would like to say we are very relieved at the sentence that has been passed down today.

"I would also like to say thank you for all the support we have received throughout the globe."

Addressing applauding supporters, she added: "I just want to thank each and every one of you for turning up today, having belief, having faith and making sure we get justice."

The teen is free to return home after Judge Michalis Papathanasiou told her he was giving her a "second chance".

The judge told the court on Tuesday the four-month sentence would be suspended for three years.

The teenager has been stuck on the island after claiming she was raped by up to 12 Israeli tourists in a hotel room in the party town of Ayia Napa on July 17.

She was charged and spent about a month in prison before being granted bail in August.

The dozen young men and boys, aged between 15 and 20 arrested over the incident were freed after she signed a retraction statement 10 days later.

She woman maintains she was raped after having consensual sex with one of the Israelis but forced to change her account under pressure from Cypriot police.

The case hinged on a retraction statement signed by the teenager following hours of questioning alone and without legal representation.

Protesters outside the court
Protesters outside the court. Picture: PA

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the court ahead of sentencing, including a group of women who travelled from Israel.

They chanted "Cyprus justice, shame on you", "stop blaming the victim" and "you are not alone".

Some held placards reading "we believe you" and "don't be afraid".

The mother the teenager said her daughter was "terrified" of being sent to jail.

Her lawyers asked Judge Michalis Papathanasiou to consider a suspended prison sentence after she was convicted of public mischief last week.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he would be following up issues raised by the case of the teenager found guilty of lying about being gang raped with the Cypriot authorities.

"We will be following up on some of the issues in relation to the case. I spoke to the Cypriot foreign minister about that," he told reporters at RAF Northolt as he prepared to leave for talks in Brussels.

"There is a broader issue for Brits travelling abroad - not just in Cyprus or indeed in Europe - whether it is holiday, whether it is backpacking, to make sure they can do so as safely and securely as possible.

"What we will want to do is have a conversation with our Cypriot friends and partners about that case once I have downloaded the full facts."