A CHARITY said holding hands "never could amount to consent to sex" after a student who reported being raped was told the case would not go to court due to CCTV footage of her with the alleged attacker.

Josie Jolley, an "extremely bright" postgraduate in the Geography department at the University of Sussex, took her own life on September 8 last year.

The 25-year-old's death came nine months after she had reported being raped in the London area.

The inquest into her death on Wednesday at Brighton Coroner's Court heard that the case had been passed from Sussex Police to the Metropolitan Police, and then to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

But the decision was taken not to bring the case to court, and the inquest heard that CCTV footage of Josie holding hands with her alleged rapist on the same evening would "undermine" a prosecution.

DI James Meanwell of Sussex Police said it is "one person’s word against another’s" and Josie had said it was non-consensual, but the suspect had said it was consensual.

He said: "They had met for the first time that evening. There was CCTV footage from the location, but no footage from the actual area of the offence.

“There was CCTV footage of them holding hands, which would be undermining for a prosecution to take place.”

The inquest heard that Josie's mental health had suffered in the months after.

The Argus: Josie Jolley: 'extremely bright, outgoing and strong'Josie Jolley: 'extremely bright, outgoing and strong'

Speaking at the hearing, director for student experience at the university Jayne Aldridge said Josie had reported "feeling like she could smell the man who had raped her and could not think straight".

Josie was found dead by two friends at her home in Stanmer Park Road in Brighton on the evening of Tuesday, September 8 last year.

Rape Crisis, the charity for sexual assault victims in England and Wales, described what happened to Josie as "devastating" and said it was an example of the "failing criminal justice system".

National spokeswoman Katie Russell added that holding hands "never has and never could amount to consent to sex".

Ms Russell said: “This devastating case and its tragic outcome are stark and very sad reminders of the real-life repercussions of our failing criminal justice system, which too often lets down victims and survivors of rape and sexual violence.

"Rape and sexual assault are traumatic experiences that can and do have long-term, wide-ranging and severe impacts on victims’ and survivors’ mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing, their relationships and their wider lives.

"Depression and anxiety are common impacts of going through something like this, as are suicidal thoughts, feelings and attempts.

"The vast majority of those who are raped know the perpetrator before the attack, and often trusts them.

"But holding hands never has and never could amount to consent to sex.

"Our sincere condolences go out to Josie’s family and friends.

"We encourage anyone whose life has been impacted by sexual violence or abuse to find information and specialist, confidential support at rapecrisis.org.uk.”

It comes after leading women's groups said fundamental changes are needed to address the "national emergency" following the government's Rape Review, published last week.

Home Office figures show 52,210 rapes were recorded in England and Wales in 2020, but only 843 resulted in a charge by the end of the year – fewer than 1 in 60 cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland have apologised to rape victims for low conviction rates.

Mr Johnson told the Commons on Tuesday: "There are considerable evidential problems, particularly in recovering data from mobile phones, and that has been an obstacle to the speedy preparation of cases.

“Too often, let’s be frank, cases go from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service not in a fit state and too often those cases are not in a fit state to come to court, and there is not a good enough join-up across the criminal justice system.

"Of course, to all the victims of rape and sexual violence, all the victims and survivors, of course I say sorry for the trauma they have been through, the frustration that they go through because of the inadequacies of the criminal justice system.

“We are fixing that by investing another £1 billion in clearing the court backlogs, in ensuring that they have people they can listen to and trust who will help them through the trials of the criminal justice experience, but above all we’re helping them by getting our courts moving again.”