By Anna Roberts
A woman who falsely accused an innocent man of dragging her into gardens and raping her has been jailed for two years.
The innocent man Sharlene James alleged attacked her was arrested on suspicion of rape.
He was held at a police station in Sussex for more than 14 hours where he was stripped naked and subjected to intimate medical examinations and grueling questions.
As police on the ground cordoned off a huge area of Kemp Town, Brighton, he wept as officers asked him why he raped the woman.
At the same time James had claimed she was raped, police were already investigating a series of similar attacks in the Kemp Town area.
Police yesterday said her lies prompted fears a “serial attacker was at large”.
But the couple only shared a taxi and did not kiss - let alone have sex.
Yesterday - more than two years after the original 'rape' was alleged - James, now 26, of Parham Close, Brighton, was convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
She had claimed at Lewes Crown Court yesterday she had suffered temporary amnesia and forgot what had happened during the early hours of November 9, 2011, when she claimed she was dragged into a bush in New Steine Gardens by a man she had just met and subjected to a violent attack.
She named the man as her attacker, despite the pair - who had only met briefly - sharing a short taxi ride and engaging only in brief conversation.
The man, who has children, said he had been at a nightclub in Brighton with friends on the night of Tuesday, November 8, 2011, when he bumped into James who he had never met before.
They got chatting and he, her friend and his friend shared a taxi to Kemp Town. They passed the gardens where she alleged the rape occurred, but nothing happened.
Recounting the story exclusively to The Argus yesterday, he said: “I just thought it was a normal night, nothing untoward.”
“We were just chatting and having a laugh.”
“We did not have sex, or kiss, nothing happened.”
Two days later the man, now 29 and living in Brighton, was out when his girlfriend's father called him and said the police wanted to talk to him.
He said: “My father-in-law, that is what I call him, said, 'the police have been looking for you'.”
“I laughed it off at first. I could not think why they wanted me.”
“They had asked for me by my first name, but that was all.”
“I thought that was weird. I phoned up the police and they said they needed to speak to me urgently.”
“They said, 'It's a case of rape'.”
“I felt cold all over. I knew I needed a solicitor.”
“I went in and they arrested me on suspicion of rape.”
“I was so scared. I was thinking, 'I haven't done anything'.”
“I was stripped naked and they did medicals on me. They did swaps on me.”
“The questioning was grueling and intense.”
“It felt unreal. I was so upset and angry.”
“I was in the station for 14-and-a-half hours and then my girlfriend told me I couldn't go home.”
“My girlfriend initially believed it. She didn't think another woman would make it up.”
He said since then his girlfriend had come to terms with the fact he was not lying. But he has not told her about the ongoing case to prosecute James for her false claim.
He added: “I kept it from my loved ones - I did not want them to have to live through it again.”
“Sharlene's story was ludicrous - she said she had amnesia.”
“But she tried to wreck my life.”
“I would not wish it on my worst enemy.”
He explained the case against him was dropped within a week after CCTV evidence proved he was not in the area at the time of the alleged attack.
“But it has still had an impact,” he said. “The mental impact has been ridiculous.”
“If I had been found guilty I would have been looking at ten years.”
“She has got two. It is good that she is jailed but it should have been for longer. It should have at least been four.”
“Women are raped and they are raped violently. Lying about it makes a mockery of genuine rape victims.”
He said the false allegation has also cost him about £800 in lost work and staying in hotels while the case was being investigated.
Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes said: “Police were already investigating a number of incidents in the Kemp Town area when this allegation was made.”
“As in all cases we took this report very seriously and were quick to respond.”
“On launching an extensive investigation we quickly concluded that this offence did not take place and aside from raising unnecessary anxiety and alarm, many hours were wasted that could have been put to better use investigating genuine reports of crime.”
“I would like to stress that this will not affect in any way our response to reports of sexual offences and I would urge anyone who is a victim to contact us, even if the incident happened a while ago.”
“We will take your report seriously and it will be dealt with sensitively and confidentially.”
“Call us on 101 or email email@example.com.”