The victim, named only as Ms B, was “treated with contempt” and failed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), according to the Government’s Ombudsman, whose “mishandling” of her contributed case to her attackers never being found.
The young woman had been on holiday with friends in 2018 when she was allegedly raped by unknown men.
After the attack, she turned to the FCDO for advice on navigating the local police force and legal systems.
Instead she received a message from the Vice Consul which said: “What you now have to do is to carry on with your holiday and enjoy it.”
The woman was not told a forensic examination would be necessary for a local police investigation to take place, the watchdog found.
This meant that she did not pursue a criminal investigation in Turkey and waited until she was back in the UK to report the rape.
By this point, the British Police and a British solicitor were unable to investigate because the alleged crime had occurred in Turkey.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has upheld a complaint from Ms B, finding the FCDO’s failings led to a “missed opportunity” for her to bring her attackers to justice.
Ms B felt she had no choice but to return to Turkey on three occasions to follow matters up with the local police at her own expense.
She doesn’t want another woman to go through the same experience.
This caused her further unnecessary distress and prolonged her trauma, the PHSO said.
Despite her efforts, which included hiring a local lawyer, none of the perpetrators were ever found.
Knowing that an earlier police investigation could have led to a different outcome has compounded Ms B’s trauma.
She said: “The awful failings and bad advice given by the FCDO left me in a vulnerable situation where I was forced to use my own intuition to preserve forensic evidence.
“Whilst in Turkey and on return, I was failed at every hurdle by the FCDO and re-victimised. The FCDO gave false hope on my return to the UK, which led to a forensic medical examination.
“The very poor advice and deceitful involvement of the FCDO hindered the assistance of the British Police Force, causing me prolonged suffering, additional anger and unnecessary distress.
“I wouldn’t wish my experience of the FCDO’s mishandling on anyone else.”
The Ombudsman has recommended Ms B be compensated to the tune of £20,000 for trauma, unnecessary travel and legal expenses and to recognise the loss of opportunity to prosecute her attackers.
Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: “A young woman who has undergone a deeply traumatic experience has been treated with contempt by the very people who were meant to help her.
“This is a severe dereliction of duty by the FCDO, which needs to make sure that such mishandling of an incident of serious sexual assault never happens again.”
A Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office spokesperson said: “We apologise for the distress caused and will immediately implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations.
“Since this incident in 2018, the FCDO has taken a number of steps to ensure victims are not failed in the same way.
“We are committed to learning from where we have fallen short so we can improve the consular support we provide to British nationals in cases involving rape and sexual assault.”