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Rapist fined just £120 for naming and degrading his victim on Facebook

A rapist who named his victim on Facebook has only been punished with a £120 fine for breaching the victims right to anonymity.

Phillip Leece, 32, was this week jailed for 16 years for the violent rape of a woman he had just met.

The court heard how Leece had met the drunk and vulnerable victim when she became lost after leaving a nightclub in Rochdale town centre in March 2019.

He pursued her into a park, initially portraying himself as a 'Good Samaritan' and she accepted his help, prosecutor Alaric Bassano said.

But rather than guiding her to safety, Leece led her to a secluded area where he violently raped her, ignoring her repeated pleas to stop.

When he was arrested and presented with CCTV footage placing him in the area and compelling DNA evidence, Leece said he ‘didn’t trust’ forensic evidence.

DNA matching Leece was discovered during a hospital examination of the victim and CCTV footage placed him in the area at the time.

Despite this, Leece denied the charge and took to Facebook to write a post protesting his innocence in which he named the victim in "disordered ramblings" and claimed he wasn’t capable of rape because of his drugged condition at the time.

He wrote that he was under the influence of ecstasy and "it was just as likely that she raped him".

Leece also claimed a "fear of women", stated that he is of "higher than average intelligence" and said the victim is "too fat for him to have wanted sex with" claiming that he "finds fat women disgusting".

Victims of rape and sexual offences have anonymity for life and it is a criminal offence to name them unless they have waived that right themselves.

In the most serious circumstances, anyone who names a rape victim can be hauled before a Crown Court for contempt of court.

This was not what happened in this case as it was dealt with by magistrates at the lower court and facing a small fine.

Recorder Nicholas Clarke QC has now asked a prosecutor to feedback to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) his concerns around the low penalty for such a charge.

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Meanwhile, a rape charity has warned that low penalties for "robbing" survivors of their legal right to anonymity "don’t serve as any kind of a deterrent".

The matter was discussed during Leece’s sentencing for rape at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on March 29. The posts were removed by Facebook at the request of the victim’s husband.

They resulted in Leece being fined £120 at the magistrates’ court for "identifying a sex offence complainant" – an offence contrary to section 1(2) and 5(1) of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.

That matter was highlighted by Mr Recorder Clarke during Leece’s sentencing for rape this week.

Querying why breaching anonymity was dealt with in the lower court he said: "The agony of her circumstances have been added to by comments he has made on Facebook where he has named her repeatedly and blamed her for an offence in a number of separate ways.

"That naming of her is a separate offence. That can’t be proper. It’s something that must be addressed elsewhere."

If you or somebody you know has been affected by this story, contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice on 0845 30 30 900 or visit their website, www.victimsupport.org.uk.

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