Man fails in rape appeal

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An east Yorkshire man who was jailed almost 20 years ago for raping a troubled teenager will stay behind bars after failing in a bid to clear his name.

Carl Butler, 50, attacked the teen at a flat in Bridlington after meeting her at a benefits office in the town in October 1997.

In May 1998, Butler, formerly of Withernsea, near Hull, was convicted by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court of rape and jailed for life.

He was given only a six-year minimum term, but remains in prison, partly due to the fact that he still denies the crime.

Earlier this month, he took his case to the Court of Appeal, where his lawyers argued he was a victim of a ‘miscarriage of justice’.

But today (May 20), after taking two weeks to consider the decision, appeal judge Sir Brian Leveson returned to the London court to dismiss Butler’s case.

Giving judgment, the judge, who heard the appeal with Mr Justice Hickinbottom and Mrs Justice Thirlwall, said the prosecution case was ‘strong’.

The court heard Butler was accused of raping the woman at an almost unfurnished flat he had just obtained in Marshall Avenue.

Afterwards, he went to order a pizza for delivery. After eating some, the victim found the key in the front door and escaped.

She went straight to a friend’s home nearby and immediately complained of rape.

Butler appealed first in 1999, when senior judges led by Lord Justice Laws rejected his complaints.

However his case came back to court after a reference by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

During an investigation, the CCRC had discovered that the alleged victim had made a ‘substantial’ number of previous rape complaints against other men.

Butler’s barrister, Stephen Field, argued that, had that been known at the time, it could have affected the result of the trial.

Having that information would have allowed the defence to make attacks on the woman’s credibility as a witness, he said.

But in his judgement, Sir Brian said bringing that evidence into the trial would perhaps have been detrimental to Butler’s case.

It would have led to evidence of Butler’s own previous convictions - for two separate rapes and sex with an underage girl - going before the jury.

There was also other evidence against Butler, aside from the victim’s complaint, he continued.

The pizza delivery man had spoken of seeing Butler give the woman a ‘funny stare’, as if telling her with his eyes not to say anything.

She herself gave a ‘funny stare as if she was not comfortable - a frightened, sad expression’, the man said.

Butler had also changed his account of what happened, first claiming he had not had sex with the woman, then claiming they had had consensual sex.

His false alibi had been supported initially by his girlfriend, but later retracted, the judge continued.

‘Although this allegation of rape turned on a direct conflict of evidence between [the victim] and Butler, there was substantial support for the general credibility of her and her account,’ he concluded.

The appeal was dismissed.