A 12-year-old girl whose rapist walked free from court has spoken of being “devastated” in a powerful letter.
The victim was plied with vodka and cherry cola at a party before being raped by Daniel Cieslak, then aged 19.
Cieslak, now 21, was controversially given an absolute discharge by a court in Scotland after claiming the 12-year-old had been an “active participant” in sex with him.
Silent until now, the young victim, who can be named only as Catherine, says she believes her attacker had sex with her while she was unconscious.
She woke up in a strange bed in a flat in Edinburgh feared she was pregnant and has since been on medication having made a failed bid to take her own life.
In the letter, Catherine, now 14, writes: “The guy Daniel said he didn’t know my age. I can barely remember that night.
“I have flashbacks, images ever since.
“I had passed out in the living room then I remember him picking me up, and then wakening up in a bed.
“It was said that I consented but how can someone consent when they can’t even talk?
“Before this happened, I was confident, happy, always had a smile on my face without trying. And now I fake a smile.
“I suffer from anxiety, depression, I take tablets to help me sleep. I even tried to commit suicide because I was barely holding it together.
“I have had a lot of low points. Then I found out he pled guilty and I didn’t have to go to court.
“My family and I celebrated.
“Then he walked free, nothing at all. I was devastated.”
The letter is published today with the permission of the girl’s mother, who can be named only as Christine.
Christine is furious at the decision by judge Lady Scott not to properly punish Cieslak.
He pled guilty to a charge of raping a girl under the age of 13 at the High Court in Glasgow in February.
The following month, Lady Scott gave him an absolute discharge – meaning he escaped meaningful punishment– after hearing he believed his victim was 16.
She said she took into account the girl’s “willingness” to go to a party and engage in “consensual sexual activity” in which she was an “active participant”.
The judge said while consent was not a defence to a charge of rape when the victim is under 13 – because she is deemed legally incapable of consent – it could be taken into account for sentencing.
She said: “Here the victim willingly participated in the sexual intercourse and there was, in fact, consent.”
Christine said: “We were relieved when he pled guilty because it meant Catherine wouldn’t have to go to court.
“But we couldn’t believe it when told what his sentence was.
“I don’t think it sank in for Catherine.
“She asked me, ‘What happens now mum?’ I told her, ‘Basically nothing, darling.’ She asked, ‘So he’s just walked free?’
“She knows she shouldn’t have been in town with her friend.
“For weeks she said, ‘It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have been there.’ But now she’s at the angry stage.
“She wants to know why his side was taken.
“She now wishes that she could have stood up in court and told a jury what happened.
“Daniel Cieslak never asked her what age she was.
“But it doesn’t matter what age she looked.
“I don’t know if she looked older than she was and she shouldn’t have been out at that time.
“But what happened to her wasn’t consensual.
“Catherine passed out over a coffee table. He lifted her off the floor on to a sofa and raped her.
“A 12-year-old girl.”
The schoolgirl’s ordeal began when she and a 13-year-old friend went into Edinburgh city centre on a Friday night in July 2015.
Her mum said: “The other girl had stayed with us on the Thursday night and Catherine was due to stay at her parents’ house on the Friday.
“I spoke to the girl’s parents and everything seemed fine.
“She told her parents they were going into town and would get the last bus home.
“The friend bought a quarter-bottle of vodka, which they drank between them. Catherine said she had four wee sips.
“They hung around McDonald’s in Princes Street and missed the last bus home. They were in a taxi queue when the friend heard someone’s name being shouted.
“She spoke to two guys and told Catherine, ‘That’s my cousin, we’re going to a party.’
“They got in a cab with them and went to a flat.”
Lady Scott said in her judgment that Cieslak understood from chat in the taxi that Catherine was 16 and her friend was 17.
The taxi driver also had the impression she was 20, said Lady Scott, and police looking for a missing girl in the city centre “had no concerns” about her age when they spoke to her.
But Christine insisted: “Catherine says that Cieslak never asked her what age she was. She also said there was a guy at the flat who gave a look as if to say, ‘What age are they?’
“The guys gave them vodka and cherry cola but when they ran out of cherry cola, they drank vodka straight.
“Her friend disappeared through to the bedroom with the other guy.
“But Catherine passed out on the floor over the coffee table.
“Cieslak lifted her on to a couch and raped her.
“I asked her how many times she said no and she said, ‘Mum, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move my body.’
“Her next memory is waking up in the morning in a bed with the other girl and the other guy.
“Cieslak had gone. She had wet herself and the bed and couldn’t find her pants.
“She put on the rest of her clothes and the two girls left the flat.
“When she got home, she was very subdued. I just thought she had had a late night at her friend’s house.
“But on the Sunday, my eldest daughter was over for dinner and they went upstairs and Catherine told her what had happened.
“She said, ‘I can feel something moving in my tummy. I think I might be pregnant.’
“That’s how innocent and naive she was.”
Christine took her daughter to their GP on the Monday morning and the doctor informed children’s services.
Catherine was examined by a police doctor, who confirmed that she had internal bleeding and bruising.
Months after the attack, Catherine attempted to commit suicide by taking an overdose of painkillers.
She has also cut her wrists.
She has struggled at school, suffering panic attacks in the classroom.
Christine said: “She’s lost interest and has learned little in the past two years. She’s also given up riding – she used to love working in the stables and wanted to become a vet.
“She stopped going to activity clubs too. She feels as if no one understands what she’s gone through and is even nervous leaving the house.”
Christine also criticised the Crown for failing to appeal the sentence on the grounds of leniency.
She said: “We feel 100 per cent let down by the justice system. My entire trust in the justice system has gone.”
Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “This case causes concern as it suggests that what happened was consensual.
“This was not her experience – she describes being given quantities of vodka then passing out, to then be lifted on to a sofa to be raped.
“She froze and was unable to scream or fight back.
“This is a common reaction for anyone during a traumatic event such as rape, never mind for a 12-year-old girl.”