Court hears of the impact of Southampton rape on young woman as her attacker is jailed
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A 20-year-old woman has bravely described the impact a Southampton rape has had on her life, as her rapist was sentenced to 14 years and four months.
In a statement read to Southampton Crown Court today (Thursday 21 September) the woman, who was 19 at the time of the rape, described finding it hard to connect with people since the incident.
The court was told how police were called to Palmerston Park at around 7am on Sunday 19 February to a report that a woman had been raped. A passer-by had been walking through the park when they witnessed a man attacking the woman in a bush. The woman called out to the member of the public for help – and startled by this, the man fled the scene.
CCTV operators in the city traced the man to a National Express coach station where he was arrested.
Rosario Raquel Dos Reis, 28, of St. Mary Street in Southampton, was charged with rape, two counts of assault by penetration, sexual assault and attempted rape. He was remanded into custody until his trial began on Monday 17 July. During the second day of the trial, Reis entered a guilty plea to the charge of rape, for which he has now been sentenced to 14 years and four months, with six of these on licence. The assault by penetration, sexual assault and attempted rape charges will lie on file.
The court heard the woman’s Victim Impact Statement, in which she said: “What he has done to me has destroyed my family and I. My family live a five minute walk from me but I feel like I can no longer walk there on my own, which is something I would always do before. I no longer feel safe walking alone.”
Claire Shawley, Detective Inspector of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary's specialist rape unit Operation Amberstone, said: “We have all heard in court today the lasting effects that this sickening crime will have on its victim, the likes of which the majority of us will never be able to comprehend.
“I want to acknowledge the courage of the woman involved in this case, both in reporting what had happened and for her support and co-operation throughout our investigation, without which we would not have secured this outcome today."
Operation Amberstone Detective Constable Laura Cook, who led the investigation, said: "This has been a harrowing experience for the victim to have to re-live, but her actions in reporting this have allowed us to take swift action and remove a dangerous predatory man off the streets of Southampton.
“We are also incredibly grateful for the member of the public for intervening on that day and for staying with the victim until police arrived.
“Our priority is always securing justice for victims, and we worked hard to present a substantial case to the courts, resulting in Reis pleading guilty. I am pleased that he has now been jailed and hope that this result goes some way to helping the victim move forward with her life.”
Southampton Superintendent Phil Lamb said: “I fully appreciate how frightening incidents of this nature are to Southampton residents, and I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that no matter the circumstances, we are committed to supporting survivors of rape and sexual assault and will do everything we can to identify offenders and put them in front of a court.
“Officers are out patrolling the city centre and surrounding parks every weekend at key times. More than £600,000 has recently been spent in Southampton via the Safer Streets Funding to support the efforts of ourselves and our wide partnership network across the city in relation to violence against women and girls.
“This funding has allowed my officers to access specialist training in order to help them spot predatory or harassing behaviour towards women, so that they can intercept and deal with those responsible. We have also received all terrain quad bikes which allow us to patrol the parks after dark.
“In addition, our colleagues at Southampton City Council have been working on expanding the city’s CCTV network, which was invaluable in the swift arrest of Reis in this case.
“We will continue working together with our partners across the city to ensure that Southampton is a safe place to live, work and visit.”
If you’ve been a victim, please report rape or sexual assault as soon as possible. Even if you’re not 100 per cent sure, we’d sooner hear from you so that we can make sure you’re safe and discuss options. If you’re not ready to talk to the police just yet, that’s OK. There are a range of places to get support, advice and medical help.