After a lengthy court battle, a woman finally confessed to three false rape allegations against an innocent man. However, instead of jail time, a judge freed the woman without consequence because of a “personal” reason.
Hannah Harkin, 51, of Omagh, Ireland, was convicted of filing three separate false accusations of rape against an innocent man. Although the judge acknowledged that the woman should be thrown in prison, she was allowed to walk out of the courtroom a free woman after the judge heard her defense.
For many, to “believe women” is to give the survivors of sexual abuse the benefit of the doubt. However, bypassing the standard of innocent until proven guilty allows the abusers of justice the opportunity to destroy careers, reputations, and lives. Disturbingly, many of these perjurers don’t even receive a slap on the wrist despite attempting to lock up their targets.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, Harkin was sentenced to 18 months in prison but also granted a 2-year suspended sentence, which means she won’t set foot in prison as long as she doesn’t commit another imprisonable offense within the next couple of years. The mother-of-six confessed in Newry Crown Court to perverting the course of justice by filing false rape reports to the police in an attempt to have her ex-partner arrested and prosecuted.
During her sentencing, Judge Paul Ramsey QC admitted that crimes like Harkin’s typically warrant hard time. However, he spared the woman prison because she had “very difficult personal circumstances” that garnered his sympathy.
“It’s clear she has had a very traumatic life including domestic abuse and beatings,” Judge Ramsey said. “She has battled with alcoholism for more than 20 years and her harrowing personal circumstances are an important explanatory factor of this offence. She is a very vulnerable lady who has been taken advantage of throughout her life by different men who have abused her.”
The judge acknowledged that Harkin’s false allegations not only irreparably damaged her victim but also causes actual survivors of sexual assault to hesitate to seek justice against their abusers.
“For this type of offence normally prison follows, as it is not just an attack on the victim but also the justice system, and has an effect on genuine victims coming forward and being believed,” he said. “This is an offence which strikes at the heart of the administration of justice. She made a wholly false and wicked allegation against an innocent man, which caused a great deal of upset.”
Judge Ramsey justified his decision to spare Harkin from receiving jail time due to the fact that she had “confessed very publicly” to her lies, which she “deeply regretted.” Still, he maintained that police custody would do no good.
Harkin’s defense team blamed her false rape stories on her “dissatisfaction” over her relationship with her victim, accusing him of “using her for sex.” When asked why she would go to such an extreme, she claimed she was “battling an alcohol addiction” and “felt he was walking all over” her.
Harkin first made headlines when she provided a false alibi for her son Gerard Donnell, who was convicted of beating a man to death with a pick-ax handle. Donnell killed 48-year-old Andrew Bannon over the belief that he was engaged in a relationship with his mother. Donnell served only 5 years for manslaughter. Harkin was convicted of withholding information concerning the slaying.
Harkin represents the danger in automatically believing women who make serious allegations of abuse. While potential victims should be given every protection and benefit of the law, the mere claim must not be taken as definitive.
A single false accusation can ruin an innocent man’s life, and liars like Harkin understand this and use it to their advantage. Sadly, these false accusations cheapen the experiences of survivors and cause others to look at them with even more suspicion, which is why they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.