A young woman from the UK raped while on holiday in Turkey was “treated with contempt” by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the public services watchdog has found.
The victim, referred to as Ms B, was denied the opportunity to take legal action because she was given wrong information by the Government department, according to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).
She even 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.”
This is a severe dereliction of duty by the FCDO
Ombudsman Rob Behrens
The watchdog upheld a complaint from Ms B, finding that the FCDO’s failings led to a missed opportunity for her to bring her attackers to justice.
The woman was not given information on where she could get legal advice or about local police procedures.
She was led to believe several things which were incorrect, including that she had given sufficient evidence to the police, did not need a forensic examination and had completed the necessary steps for a criminal investigation.
Ms B also raised concerns about the attitude of FCDO officials, saying they did not believe her or take her seriously.
She felt compelled to return to Turkey three times to hire a local lawyer and follow up matters with the police, but none of the perpetrators were found.
An earlier police investigation could have led to a different outcome, the woman believes.
She said: “I wouldn’t wish my experience of the FCDO’s mishandling on anyone else.
“I can only hope that significant lessons will be learnt by the FCDO following the report by the Ombudsman and, as a result, significant changes are made to their processes, hiring and training practices.”
The PHSO recommended that the department sets out what action it will take to address its failings in a plan presented to the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
It also asked the FCDO to compensation Ms B for the unnecessary travel and legal expenses she incurred and the distress she experienced as a result of its actions.
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.
“In the aftermath of the #MeToo era, people have a right to assume that Government departments will display the highest levels of awareness and understanding about the importance of women’s safety.”
An FCDO spokesman 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.”