This summer an unusual event took place in the Scottish courts. A man, 23 years old Stephen Coxen, has been charged in a civil action court case after being acquitted in a criminal trial.
Former St Andrews student, being referred to as M in regards to this trial, claimed that Mr. Coxen sexually assaulted her during fresher’s week of 2013. Mr Coxen was then acquitted of the charge in 2015 due to insufficient evidence to pronounce him guilty.
As the criminal court case was ruled “not proven” and Mr. Coxen not charged, M brought the case forward again and filed a civil action suit in the Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh this summer. This is believed to be the first case like this in Scotland.
The verdict in civil court read that Mr. Coxen had raped M, based on what the judge called, “cogent, compelling and persuasive” evidence. He declared that Mr. Coxen owed M 80,000 pounds in damages to try and mitigate the effects that the rape had on her, which included panic attacks, night terrors and subsequent medication.
While M was very intoxicated when the incident occurred, she attests that she was raped and forced to give oral sex to Mr. Coxen on September 14th, 2013 before he abruptly left her house after discovering that she had begun bleeding during intercourse.
Mr. Coxen said that M and himself were “passionately kissing” in the Lizard Lounge before they went back to her place. While Mr. Coxen sustained that he had not raped M, during the trial, he admitted that his abrupt departure once he found her bleeding was “immature, stupid… [and] very rude,“ and probably due to the fact that he was “grossed out” by the blood.
M’s counsel, Simon Di Rollo found three discrepancies in Mr. Coxen’s original account of the night that may have tipped the civil court in M’s favour. For example, Mr. Coxen claimed that another women had opened the gate to M’s flat to let them in that night, but both of M’s flatmates swore under oath that they had not opened the gate and Mr. Coxen could not say who else would have. Additionally, Mr. Coxen claimed that M gave him her phone to hold because she did not have any pockets when in fact she had both pockets and a purse. M claims that Mr. Coxen had her phone because she had dropped it when intoxicated and he had picked it up.
Di Rosso queried this, asking Mr. Coxen if the fact that M had dropped her phone, and he picked it up and put it in his pocket, was any indication that she was too drunk to give consent. Mr. Coxen replied with, “I am not sure one is equal to the other.”
While the two undoubtedly had sex, Mr. Coxen maintained that M’s declarations that he had physically forced her to give him oral sex, in turn damaging her tongue, were a lie.
Once the case had been settled and the damages demanded, M made a statement urging other victims to speak up and fight for justice. “It has taken me five years to get justice, and for society to send Stephen Coxen a message that what he did was wrong. To the many, many others who find themselves in a position like this: speak up. It is only by telling these stories we can exert the pressure that is so clearly needed to improve our criminal justice system.”
As the case pertained to gender-based violence and set legal precedent, it was funded by the Scottish Legal Aid Board and closely followed by women’s rights groups. The case has also said to have encouraged other women who had attackers get off in criminal court to prepare cases to try in civil court, following in M’s footsteps.
While M has won the case, she is not expected to receive much, if any of the 80,000 pounds due to her. This is because the majority of the money will go to the Scottish aid board for their help with the case, assuming Mr. Coxen is able to pay the full amount.
The University of St Andrews offered M support and guidance throughout the case, with principal Sally Mapstone meeting with M on various occasions over the past years to offer her support.