Northumbria Police Respond to “Social Media Reporting” on Sunderland Rape Allegation

From the website of Northumbria Police:

Northumbria Police has released a statement in relation to social media reporting on an attack that happened in Hendon [in Sunderland] last year.

Chief Supt Ged Noble, the Southern Area Commander at Northumbria Police, said:

“Reporting on social media about a complaint of a serious assault in Peel Street Hendon last year has grossly misrepresented the facts… On receiving the complaint, Northumbria Police made early arrests and conducted an extensive investigation. Officers sensitively gained the complainant’s recollection of the event, secured CCTV footage, interviewed independent witnesses and obtained DNA and other forensic samples.

“The CPS took the decision that no action should be taken, in accordance with the evidential test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

“The complainant has been informed of her right to appeal that decision… It is disappointing that the victim is now having to endure a situation where the case she was involved in is being subjected to entirely misleading reporting, based on unfounded information, via social-media outlets…”

The “serious assault” is actually an allegation of rape. Last September, it was reported that a young woman had awoken “with cuts and bruises”at a strange address after a night out, and that six men had been arrested; a few weeks later, a fuller account of the allegations in the Daily Mail revealed that the suspects were “a gang of six migrants from Iraq, Syria and Bahrain”. The Mail report also had details of a “far-right” protest march “involving the Sunderland Defence League”, during which the property had been attacked and two unconnected Asian men assaulted.

More recently, the allegations have been publicised by former EDL leader Tommy Robinson via Ezra Levant’s Canadian Rebel Media website, which now employs Robinson as a contributor. However, contrary to Northumbria Police, the complainant does not seem be “enduring” the attention – instead, she has (informally – see update below) waived her right to anonymity, given an interview to Robinson, and appears to be actively involved in marches demanding “Justice for Chelsey”. According to what she told Robinson, a rape exam “uncovered two counts of semen, one of them inside her body”, and it is further alleged that police failed to speak to a witness who saw the suspects attempting to restrain the complainant as she fled the property in a distressed state.

Robinson used his recent appearance on the Daily Politics Show to draw attention to the case, citing a web address that has been registered by Levant and that redirects to a relevant page on The Rebel. Robinson believes that the police have failed to investigate properly because the suspects are Muslims, and his supporters complain that there is a media “blackout” in place.

Robinson has been keen to stress that the protests reflect the feelings of “the community” in Sunderland. Perhaps this is so, but the far-right appears to be an organising presence. In particular, an activist named Billy Charlton is heavily involved, and Robinson can seen posing with him here. It is difficult to believe that Robinson is unaware that Charlton has a history with Combat 18, and difficult to to understand why someone who frequently complains bitterly that he is mischaracterised as far-right would be willing to overlook such an association.

Further, this context of far-right involvement is probably why the media is wary of continuing with the story. The prior coverage in the Mail shows that there is no squeamishness about running a story that might stoke up resentment against migrants or Muslims, but for the most part not even other conservative outlets are touching it – Paul Joseph Watson is on board, but there is nothing even on Breitbart, while commentators who railed against old police failures to tackle “grooming” in places like Rotherham haven’t (so far as I have seen) said anything about it either.

UPDATE (16 May): The Sunderland Echo has a follow-up piece, which includes a quote from John Dilworth, acting Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East. According to Dilworth, there was a “thorough investigation” by police, and that only one of the suspects was referred to the CPS. The Echo adds:

The Echo understands that the CCTV and forensic evidence gathered significantly undermined any assertion that the complainant had been kidnapped or drugged, or that multiple assailants had been involved in an attack of the nature being suggested online.


We have received numerous inquiries asking why we have not covered the gatherings that have taken place in Sunderland city centre.

However, the woman at the centre of the case has, on more than one occasion, contacted the newspaper to insist nothing is reported about the matter.

She said: “I’d like to make this clear that I do not give any permission for any stories to be wrote about the incident that happened in Peel Street several months back.”

The article goes on to explain that complainants in sexual allegations have legal anonymity, and that “the anonymity remains unless the alleged victim signs a written waiver allowing her anonymity to be lifted.”

This is curious: the complainant has clearly consented to her name and face being used for a public campaign, and she was happy enough to be identified by Robinson and Rebel Media. Yet she apparently hasn’t “officially” waived her right to anonymity, and she doesn’t want other media to write about the case. This is of some significance, given the claims of a “media blackout”.

UPDATE (June 2017): In a new video, Tommy Robinson has introduced “top lawyer” Daniel Berke, who has agreed to represent the complainant in pushing for a case review, for a reduced fee. Berke has been in the media previously (sometimes misspelt as “Daniel Burke”) – he successfully defended Nigel Evans MP in 2014 and Rolf Harris just last month.