Newcastle MP Nick Brown pledges to fight for alleged rape victim Serena Bowes
Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said he would raise the Newcastle College student’s case with Foreign Office Ministers
The 21-year-old who claims she was raped while on a college trip to Florence faces extradition to Italy on false allegation charges.
Serena, who waived her right to anonymity, could face 12 years in prison if she is convicted on the charge.
Today Newcastle East MP Nick Brown has pledged to support the Newcastle College student.
He said: “The police, in the United Kingdom and in Italy, should be on the side of victims in cases of attempted sexual assault.
“Anyone brought before a court should have legal representation and, if necessary, an interpreter.
“I have grave reservations about the way my constituent’s case is being treated and am raising both these issues with Foreign Office Ministers.
“Serena Bowes is my constituent. Her mother, who is also my constituent, has been in touch with my Office and of course she is worried for her daughter. I am also in touch with Judith Kirton-Darling MEP’s Office who have been trying to help to find a lawyer to act for my constituent in Italy.
“The cost of legal representation is beyond the means of my constituent. It would be completely unfair if the case went by default because she lacked the means to defend herself. Whatever the process would be, it wouldn’t be justice.”
Serena was on an undergraduate trip with Newcastle College to Florence when she says she was raped in a unisex toilet in a nightclub.
But the 21-year-old was horrified when, weeks after returning home, she was accused of falsifying the claim – a charge which could result in up to 12 years in an Italian prison.
Her family are looking for legal representation to present her case in Italy and have been in touch with a lawyer, however, are unable to fund the costs.
Serena’s mum Adele, 41, of Walker, Newcastle, said: “There is help there but we need the money. We can’t actually get the help without the money.
“We haven’t been sitting back for four weeks. I’ve tried. I can’t fight for what I can’t afford.”
Serena, a former pupil at Sacred Heart School, was on the trip to Italy in May as part of her fashion course.
The student said she and a group of friends were having a night out when she started chatting to a man in a nightclub.
She says the pair were making their way to the VIP area of the club when she was taken to the toilet and attacked.
The assault was reported to Italian police and statements were made to officers. She was also taken to hospital, where she was examined and tests were carried out.
Following the attack, a letter from the Italian police landed on her doorstep. She took it to a local police station where it was translated.
“I thought it was done with and I could get on with my life,” said Serena.
“I didn’t think he was going to get prosecuted, so I just wanted to get on with my life but this has brought everything back.”
Carole Kitching, principal at Newcastle College, said: “Serena told us about a serious assault while on a undergraduate college trip to Italy earlier this year. “It took place during their free time, and as soon as staff were alerted, they contacted the police and accompanied Serena, with the police, to the hospital.
“Serena has been offered counselling and we continue to support her through this difficult time.
“We have met with her family on a number of occasions and have been in contact with her MP about her case.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are aware of an incident involving a British national in May.
“We provided consular assistance when notified of this in October.
“We stand ready to provide further support to the individual and their family at this difficult time.”
A Home Office spokesperson: “As a matter of long-standing policy and practice, we neither confirm nor deny whether an extradition request has been made or received until such time as an arrest is made in relation to that request.”