On 24 August 2017, at Southwark Crown Court in London, 25-year-old Jemma Beale was sentenced to 10 years in prison for making repeated false claims of rape and sexual assault which resulted in one man being wrongly convicted and imprisoned. Her conviction and the extent of her manipulation and lies has thrown the issue of false allegations into the spotlight.

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While it is hard to believe any woman would simply make up an allegation as serious as rape, it does happen and the effects can be devastating. For those falsely accused, they have a long fight on their hands to prove the truth and their innocence. The actions of these selfish women also impact genuine victims of sexual assault, who at the most traumatic time in their lives need the support and the belief of the police in order to pursue a conviction and withstand the harrowing process in front of them.

Over a period of three years, between 2010 and 2013, Jemma Beale claimed she had been attacked by nine strangers across four individual incidents. In total, she claimed she had been sexually assaulted by six men and raped by nine men. In a continuous cycle of false allegations, she was reported to be very convincing in her lies and her portrayals of a woman who had been attacked.

“Cases such as this bring a real risk that a woman who has been raped or sexually assaulted may not complain to the police for fear of not being believed.”

Information on Jemma Beale’s false reports came to light from a former friend who told police Beale had lied in an earlier case which had resulted in a man being wrongly convicted. According to a report in the Surrey Advertiser, the police discovered many allegations made by Jemma Beale included ‘common discrepancies and similar circumstances,’ leading officers to doubt the credibility of her statements. They passed their information onto the Crown Prosecution Service involved in the conviction of Mahad Cassim, who had by now spent almost 3 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Cassim successfully appealed his sentence and was released from prison in 2015.

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Women who make false reports of sexual assault are rare and it has proved difficult to gain an accurate picture of just how prevalent such false allegations are. Clinical psychologist David Lisak along with three colleagues published a paper in 2010, ‘False allegations of sexual assault: an analysis of ten years of reported cases,’ in the journal Violence Against Women, which reviewed the existing data on the frequency of false reports of sexual assault.

In defining a false allegation they highlight the definition used by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, who note the determination that an allegation of sexual assault is false can only be made after a thorough investigation which can establish that no crime ‘was committed or attempted’, an entirely different circumstance to failing to prove that a sexual assault occurred. Overall, such a determination must be based on ‘evidence that the assault did not happen’. This paper also highlights the range of studies which have been carried out with regards to the frequency of false allegations of rape.

The largest study referenced is that carried out by the British Home Office in 2005 where over 2,500 cases were examined across a period of 15 years. Within this study, researchers relied on a number of data sources including forensic reports, interviews with victims, police reports and case files. Of these cases, 8% were classified as false allegations, although due to variables of mental illness and assumptions and skepticism from police officers on cases where victims’ statements contained inconsistencies, they note that this number may be an over-estimation.

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A study carried out in Australia included 850 cases of rape over a 3 year period where they found 2% of cases had been classified by police as false reports. In the only similar study to be carried out in the United States, the organization End Violence Against Women International found almost 7% of the cases they analysed were classified as false reports.

In their own research, David Lisak and his colleagues examined 136 cases reported to a northeastern university over a 10 year period with regards to the volume of false allegations made. They found that within these cases, 6% were false allegations where no such crime had been committed. Taking these results with the results of similar studies, Lisak suggests that the overall prevalence of false allegations of sexual assault can be reliably estimated as being between 2% and 10%.

“Her manipulation of the criminal justice system has caused police to direct significant amounts of resource into investigating her bogus complaints as well as her own offending.”

Jemma Beale was convicted of four counts of perjury over her allegations made against Mahad Cassim which sent him to prison and four counts of perverting the course of justice for her repeated false reports of rape and sexual assault. At her sentencing she was told by the judge, “This trial has revealed, what was then not obvious, that you are a very, very convincing liar and you enjoy being seen as a victim.

The actions of Jemma Beale are a shocking example of a woman seeking attention by pretending to be a victim. Her sentencing and imprisonment reflects not only the time and money wasted by the police and support agencies involved in her case, reported to be over 6,400 hours at a cost of approximately £360,000, but the seriousness of her crime. Called ‘manipulative’ and a ‘serial liar’, putting Beale behind bars has put an end to her attention seeking cycle of lies which have already caused lasting damage to those unfortunate enough to have been targeted by her.