A Scottish civil court ruled on Friday 5 October, that a man raped a former student of the University of St Andrews during Freshers’ Week of 2013.
The attacker, Stephen Coxen, was criminally prosecuted in 2015, but a high court jury found that the charges against him could not be proven.
Scotland is unique in that the accused can be acquitted without a court determining whether or not they are guilty.
However, the civil ruling on Friday is a victory for the victim, known under the pseudonym “Miss M,” with the decision awarding her £80,000 in damages.
It is also the first time in recent Scottish legal history that a defender has been cleared in a criminal court but sued in a civil court.
The attack took place on Saturday 14 September 2013 after Miss M and Mr Coxen met at the Lizard Lounge in St Andrews.
Miss M was under the influence of alcohol throughout the night and, after the two returned to her place of residence, he sexually assaulted her.
The court documents indicate, “While the defender was penetrating her vagina, the pursuer was upset and crying. The defender was aware of this but persisted with his conduct.” Miss M also tried to push Mr Coxen away, but “he removed her hand from his chest” and continued to assault her.
Miss M reported the incident to the police in January 2014, and Mr Coxen was prosecuted shortly after she provided her statement on 24 January.
A High Court trial in late 2015 resulted in a verdict of “not proven” on the statutory charge of sexual assault and rape.
However, the new verdict from the civil courts finds that during the multiple sexual acts of Mr Coxen, “the pursuer lacked the ability to give meaningful consent to sexual intercourse with the defender,” or that “the defender can have had no reasonable belief that the pursuer consented to what he did.”
The court also found in fact and law that, “In the early hours of Saturday 14 September 2013, accordingly, the defender took advantage of the pursuer when she was in an intoxicated state by reason of the amount of alcohol she had consumed, resulting in a lack of capacity to make free agreement, that he continued to do so even after she manifested distress and a measure of physical resistance, and that he raped her.”
Miss M still suffers symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident and received counselling and support from the University’s Student Services between 2014 and 2016.
On the verdict, a spokesperson for the University said, “Our Student Services team has provided continuing practical and pastoral support to Miss M, initially as a student and latterly after she graduated and became a member of staff at St Andrews. It has been an understandably difficult case which had a major bearing on her wellbeing and future plans, and we are very pleased for her that it has now reached a conclusion.”