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Rape-accuser faces jail for lying
A lying law graduate who falsely accused her boyfriend of rape so she would have an excuse for failing her legal exams is facing jail after being found guilty of perverting the course of justice.
Rhiannon Brooker, 30, claimed Paul Fensome, 46, forced her to have sex with him on 11 occasions and faked injuries to suggest he beat her.
The Birmingham law graduate even alleged Mr Fensome caused her to have a miscarriage by punching her in the stomach.
During the eight-week trial at Bristol Crown Court, jurors were told Brooker falsified the allegations because her party lifestyle led her to fail her bar assessments.
She is said to have told an exam committee that her performance suffered from "extenuating circumstances".
Mr Fensome, a 6ft 8in tall heavy metal fan, was arrested, charged and held in custody for 36 days before police realised there was no evidence against him.
Brooker, of School Road, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire, denied 20 charges of doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of justice between May 2011 and January 2012.
The charges related to 11 made-up claims of rape, eight assaults and one of false imprisonment.
After nearly 21 hours of deliberations, the jury of 10 men and two women found Brooker guilty of 12 charges - related to five false rape claims, six assaults and one of false imprisonment.
Jurors failed to reach verdicts on the other eight charges and were discharged by Judge Julian Lambert.
The prosecution is not seeking a re-trial and Brooker, who was released on bail, will be sentenced on June 26.
Prosecutor David Bartlett told the court: "One of the reasons for her false allegations was that she was living an active social life in Bristol and not doing the work required to pass the assessments.
"So she falsified the allegations in order to give substance to her extenuating circumstances forms.
"Her knowledge of criminal law and procedure derived from her law degree course in Birmingham and was likely to be greater than that of most rape complainants.
"The prosecution alleges that she knew that the course of justice was being perverted and intended to pervert the course of justice throughout that period.
"When discrepancies were revealed and put to Brooker, she continued to maintain her account in the face of evidence to the contrary.
"In addition, prior to her initial reports, Brooker was responsible for infliction of injuries upon herself which indicates the considered nature of these false complaints.
"After Mr Fensome had been charged, Brooker deleted text messages from her phone which would have pointed to his innocence."
Mr Bartlett told the court that "confident and outspoken" Brooker took a law degree at Birmingham City University before moving to Bristol in September 2010.
She attended the University of the West of England to become a barrister by taking Bar vocational course qualifications.
The court heard that shortly before Brooker moved to Bristol, she told colleagues at a store where she worked in Birmingham that Mr Fensome raped her.
She then turned up to lectures in Bristol with facial injuries and bruising, telling students he attacked her because she wanted to break up with him.
In May 2011, she told police he had attacked her, embellishing the story with claims of physical assault and false imprisonment.
She told a friend she was pregnant but six weeks later told them she had lost the baby because her boyfriend punched her in the ribs.
Mr Fensome, a Birmingham railway signalman and self-confessed "mosher" at heavy metal gigs, denied the assaults, describing them as a "load of rubbish", and had "cast-iron alibis" for the dates.
Brooker did not wish to see him and when he gave his evidence she sat behind a screen in the dock.
Mr Fensome told jurors: "We had a loving relationship and the sexual relationship was the same. I've never hit another woman in my life. I didn't force sex on her in any way."
Mr Bartlett told the court: "Eventually the Crown dropped the numerous charges against Paul Fensome.
"Taken as a whole, the evidence showed that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.
"Expert opinion was obtained which suggested that those injuries of Brooker that were photographed were self-inflicted.
"Brooker seemed oblivious to the impact of the false allegations on Mr Fensome's family, causing distress, disruption and expense.
"In addition, Brooker deceived other students and her tutors who committed time and emotional support to her cause.
"We suggest that the defendant has an inherent tendency to fabricate allegations and needs always to be the centre of attention.
"She has never lost that tendency or need, with disastrous consequences for herself and those around her."
The court heard Brooker sat the first four of her 12 assessments for the bar course and persuaded the extenuating circumstance committee to let her sit them all at a later date.
She eventually withdrew the rape allegations, confirming they were false, and admitted injuries seen by witnesses were self-inflicted.
Brooker told police: "The allegations were not true and I am sorry I made them. I find it very difficult to understand why I said these things.
"I believe that in some funny way I have hit out against Paul as he was close to me - the nearest target of those unresolved feelings of anger - and I regret the hurt that I've caused him as a result.
"I am trying to work hard with these feelings and I understand that they have to be resolved and put behind me."
When detectives told her of the decision to drop the charges against Mr Fensome, she became tearful, the court heard.
The following day she was found slumped against a tree by a river with a bottle of vodka and a strip of anti-depressants.
Judge Lambert ordered the eight counts to which the jury were unable to reach verdicts to lie on file.
Chief Superintendent Sarah Crew, Avon and Somerset Police's lead for rape and sexual offences, said: "Rhiannon Brooker has proved herself to be a very calculating and manipulative woman whose allegations resulted in an innocent man being charged with serious offences and remanded in custody awaiting trial.
"She made a series of false allegations of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence against her partner, which she claimed took place between April 2009 and August 2011.
"Like many other people who encountered her in a professional capacity, we too were initially taken in by her allegations.
"Mr Fensome has been through a difficult and traumatic ordeal over the past three years and I would like to thank him for supporting these court proceedings.
"We will continue to offer him all the help and support he needs.
"I understand cases like this can cause real concern for victims about whether they will be believed when they come forward.
"It would be a travesty if this case were to undermine the confidence and experiences of victims.
"We want to assure all victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse that we will listen to support you every step of the way."
James Ward, crown advocate for the CPS, said: "Over the course of the trial the jury heard how this defendant lied about being the victim of extremely serious crimes.
"They agreed with the prosecution's case that the defendant had fabricated events and have returned guilty verdicts.
"This case was brought both to protect the integrity of criminal proceedings and because of the devastating effects false allegations can have on innocent persons so accused and their families.
"Charging someone who claims to have been raped is not a decision we take lightly and we will only do so if the evidence to support a prosecution meets the tests under the Code for Crown Prosecutors and our guidance on charging perverting the course of justice in such circumstances.
"We will bring prosecutions for attempting to pervert the course of justice in cases of false allegations of rape when there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so.
"It must not be forgotten that prosecutions such as these are exceptionally rare and it would be completely wrong for anyone to make assumptions about complainants of sexual offences because of this isolated case.
"Rape victims need to know that we take their complaints extremely seriously and every attempt will be made to support them.
"We work very closely with the police, as well as partners such as Victim Support, to make sure all victims are given the help and support they need throughout the process."