A police watchdog will investigate the support Cheshire Constabulary officers offered to a vulnerable woman on the night she claimed she had been raped in Chester, the Chronicle can reveal.

Homeless man Nick Chambers, 39, was cleared of raping the complainant – who has paranoid schizophrenia – at Chester Crown Court in April.

But in what was described as an ‘unprecedented’ move by Judge Roger Dutton, the jury which unanimously found Mr Chambers not guilty issued a statement criticising the professionals who encountered the woman in the hours surrounding her allegation of rape and ‘let her down’ in her ‘moment of need’.

The five-day trial heard that Mr Chambers tried to help her by taking her to Chester Town Hall Police Station after she told him she was lost and there they encountered PC Paul Povey, who advised them to go to Richmond Court homeless hostel in Boughton.

It was on their way there that the woman – who cannot be named for legal reasons – claimed Chambers attacked her.

Contact with police officers

She later told PC Martin Middleton – who was responding to a missing person report made by her worried family – that she had been raped but he believed she was referring to a historical allegation which had been dealt with.

Judge Dutton sent copies of the jury’s statement to the Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary and the chairman of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, as the woman told mental health professionals at Wrexham Maelor Hospital that night that she had been raped by a tramp but her claims went unreported.

Review and referral

Cheshire police say the matter is being looked at internally, as well as by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

A force spokesman said: “We have received the judge’s observations regarding the support provided to a vulnerable woman prior to her reporting an allegation of rape.

“The matter is currently being reviewed by the Constabulary’s Professional Standards Department and a referral has been made to the IPCC as a matter of course.

“It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

Members of the jury wrote that they did not wish to attribute blame to any one individual in the case, but any claim of rape ‘should be taken seriously irrespective of the mental health of the complainant’.

“We believe that the complainant has been let down by the professionals who should have cared for her and given her assistance in her moment of need, from her first contact,” they commented.