A TRAINEE lawyer from Frampton Cotterell has been found guilty of falsely accusing her boyfriend of rape in a bid to avoid taking her Bar exams.
Rhiannon Brooker, 30, repeatedly accused boyfriend Paul Fensome who was subsequently arrested and charged and held in custody for 30 days.
She inflicted injuries on herself, claiming he had caused them, and lied to friends that she had lost a baby because he had punched her.
Detectives launched a major investigation but realised Mr Fensome, 46, was totally innocent and instead arrested Brooker.
It then emerged that Brooker, who had taken a Law degree at Birmingham City University before moving to Bristol to study at the University of the West of England (UWE) in September 2010, had used the allegations as ‘extenuating circumstances’ in a failed attempt to dodge taking exams.
Prosecuting, David Bartlett told the 11-week trial at Bristol Crown Court: "One of the reasons for her false allegations was that she was living an active social life in Bristol and not doing the work required to pass the assessments, so she falsified the allegations in order to give substance to her extenuating circumstances forms."
The court heard that Brooker had told fellow UWE students she had been assaulted and raped after trying to end her relationship with Mr Fensome, a railway signalman, and went to police in May 2011 where she provided photos of her 'injuries'.
She also accused Mr Fensome, who has since married, of false imprisonment and assault at her home.
Mr Bartlett said: "Eventually the Crown dropped the numerous charges against Paul Fensome because, taken as a whole, the evidence showed that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.
"Expert opinion was obtained which suggested that those injuries of Brooker that were photographed were self-inflicted."
On Thursday (June 5) Brooker was found guilty of 12 counts of doing an act tending, and intended, to pervert the course of justice - including five false claims of rape. The jury failed to reach a verdict on eight other charges which were dismissed.
Police Chief Superintendent Sarah Crew said she hoped the case would not prevent rape victims from coming forward.
"Rhiannon Brooker has proved herself to be a very calculating and manipulative woman,” she said.
“Like many other people who encountered her in a professional capacity, we too were initially taken in by her allegations.”
She added: "I understand cases like this can cause real concern for victims about whether or not they will be believed when they come forward.
"It would be a travesty if this case were to undermine the confidence and experience of victims.
"We want to assure all victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse, we will listen to and support you every step of the way."
Mr Fensome said his arrest had had a ‘massive impact’ on his whole family.
"When I first heard about the accusations I was shocked,” he said. “I lost all faith in the justice system.”
He added: "When the police charged Rhiannon and came to me to ask me to help prosecute her they apologised for locking me up for days.
"I give the officer credit for that because it would have taken a lot courage.
"My heart goes out to anyone who has been raped and, obviously, I feel they should still report it.
"God bless my dad. He told me to never even hit a woman - which I would never do."
Brooker will be sentenced on June 26.