Assault victim tells minister on Question Time police asked her how short her skirt was after attack

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James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
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Collette on Question Time on Friday. (BBC)
Collette on Question Time on Thursday. (BBC)

A minister has condemned police officers who asked a woman how short her skirt was after a man attacked her with a knife in her car.

Victoria Atkins, the safeguarding minister, said the officers, from an unnamed force, were “wholly wrong”.

The woman, Collette, was appearing on the BBC’s Question Time programme on Thursday. Looking back at her experience, she said she felt like “I was the person on trial”.

Describing the attack, she said: “I had somebody attack me, in broad daylight. I was in my car, they managed to get into my car, kind of, with a knife. I actually managed to get away from this person and used my car to do it. Then I faced possible arrest for using unreasonable force.

“It then transpired that this person is now actually serving five life sentences for murder and rape. I wasn’t taken seriously and if I actually was listened to, there’s two people who might be still alive.”

Then, later in the programme, Collette recalled how she was questioned by officers: “I got questioned about what clothes I was wearing, if I provoked the person to attack me. This is disgusting.

“Asked what clothes I was wearing because he walked past me before he got in my car, he was watching me. I was asked if my skirt was below my knee or above my knee and if I provoked him in any way.

“There’s no deterrent. Where’s the deterrent… if you attack somebody or take their life or rape a woman?

"We are too soft, our justice system is an absolute tragedy. People get away with, frankly, murder. How many more women and children – and men – have got to suffer like me and many others in order to make someone listen?”

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins on Question Time on Thursday. (BBC)
Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins on Question Time on Thursday. (BBC)

Atkins told her: “Clearly those questions were wholly, wholly wrong.”

She added: “What we want is a justice system that works for victims and we know that police training and CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] training is very much part of that.”

Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding who last week in Parliament read out the names of women killed by male violence in the past year, was also on the programme and told Atkins victims like Collette are “left feeling like evidence”.

Watch: Names of women killed by male violence read out in Parliament

“I am really cross, and it’s not because of your political party, it’s because of experiences like Collette’s.”

It follows the killing of Sarah Everard, who went missing on 3 March while walking home after visiting a friend in south London.

Her body was found in woodland near Ashford in Kent a week later, and serving police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, from Deal, Kent, has been charged with her murder.

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Her death triggered an outpouring of grief and anger at violence against women.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was this week among those who called for tougher sentences for rape and sexual violence as he read out a shocking list of rapists sentenced for less than 10 years.

According to the Sentencing Council, the maximum current sentence for rape is 19 years.

Watch: Keir Starmer reads out shocking list of rapists sentenced for less than 10 years