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Joanne Berry jailed for six years for 'bizarre' rape revenge plot against Medway woman

A "deranged" woman who tried to dupe strangers via sex chatrooms to rape a former work colleague has been jailed for six years.

Joanne Berry, 30, was said to have embarked on a "wicked and calculated" act of "revenge or retribution" against the woman after Berry became obsessed and overbearing with her.

Police have praised the victim for coming forward and for the bravery she showed during the trial.

The police mugshot of Joanne Berry
The police mugshot of Joanne Berry

Maidstone Crown Court heard that Berry had been warned by police about the numerous text messages she was sending her, and then subsequently lost her temporary job.

Maidstone Crown Court heard that this led to Berry posing on websites such as Cougar Shag, declaring she liked role play and wanted to create “some sort of rape scenario”.

But having told one man to knock at her door and burst in, the mother-of-one gave him her former colleague's home address in Medway.

Having opened her front door, Berry's intended rape victim was confronted by the man bursting through into the hallway.

However, her "panic-stricken" face made the man suspicious and he did not go through with the plan.

Instead, he later wrote a letter of apology to the woman, stating he had been “set up by a very deranged person”.

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC
Judge David Griffith-Jones QC

Then, having been told that the police would be called, he waited in his car for officers to arrive, gave a statement and eventually gave evidence during Berry's trial.

When Berry, of Marvels Lane, Grove Park, south east London, was arrested, her computer was found to contain conversations with several men describing violent rape fantasies.

The court heard one conversation, which included the victim’s address, said: “Grab me by the neck and really scare and intimidate me. Interested? Then you basically have free rein.”

Berry denied putting a person in fear of violence between April and June 2012 by arranging for men to attend the woman’s address to assault her and commit forceful sexual acts on her without consent.

Administrator Joanne Berry. Picture: Jim Bennett
Administrator Joanne Berry. Picture: Jim Bennett

She also denied assault with intent to commit a sexual offence, common assault and attempting to cause a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.

Berry was convicted of all charges but the court heard at her sentencing hearing on Friday (August 8) that she remains in denial.

Berry, who has a five-year-old son, sat impassively in the dock throughout the proceedings, with her arms folded across her chest. She did not react when she heard her fate.

Jailing her, Judge David Griffith-Jones QC frequently used the word "bizarre" to describe her "irrational vendetta" and "malicious motivation".

"The extent of the planning and deviousness deployed is an important factor that demands emphasis," he said. "This was a calculated and carefully planned operation on your behalf".

He added that Berry's own claims to have been raped in the past were part of an "extravagant and extraordinary" false history advanced to gain her colleague's sympathy when they first started working together.

Maidstone Crown Court. Picture: John Wardley
Maidstone Crown Court. Picture: John Wardley

The judge also said that she maintained her "elaborate facade" even when Berry discovered her plan had been thwarted.

She continued to text the victim, claiming the same men who had "raped" her were responsible. The court heard one message was sent as Berry waited at a police station to make a false allegation of rape.

Judge Griffith-Jones also said Berry was responsible for a "flurry of unsolicited texts" the victim received, purporting to be from another man Berry once claimed to have been raped by.

He continued that while the evidence against her had been both "direct and circumstantial", it was compelling.

"The jury was not fooled," he added.

However, he said it was "fortuitous" that her former workmate was neither raped nor sexually assaulted, despite Berry's intentions, but said she had suffered "substantial trauma".

Berry was warned by police about the numerous text messages she was sending her colleague
Berry was warned by police about the numerous text messages she was sending her colleague

In a victim impact statement, she told how she endures panic attacks, locks herself in her house and will not allow people into her home if she is alone.

She wrote how she felt "constantly on her guard".

Judge Griffith-Jones also remarked that a significant aggravating feature of the case was that she had "duped and courted" a man, via the Internet and texts, into attempting to carry out her plan.

"It could have had very serious repercussions for him....He has had to suffer the indignity of his involvement in this sordid affair being aired in public...It exposed him to very significant risk which could have ruined his life."

The court heard that Berry, who lives with her son and parents, has no previous convictions. James Manning, defending, described the offending as "highly out of character".

Administrator Joanne Berry. Picture: Jim Bennett
Administrator Joanne Berry. Picture: Jim Bennett

She was university-educated, although failed to complete her course, and had been cautioned for shoplifting in 2004.

Berry will serve half her sentence less 43 qualifying days spent on tagged curfew while on bail.

She will have to sign on the sex offenders' register indefinitely and is subject to a restraining order in relation to her victim, and the victim's sister, until further order.

Berry may also be banned in future from working with children.

During the trial prosecutor Andrew Espley told the jury Berry went on various sex chat websites, pretending to be the victim.

"She gave her address, used her name, gave the registration of her car which was going to be parked outside and told men to come around to engage in a fantasy rape game with her – basically to rape her.”

The man whom Berry duped told the court himself he felt he had been "groomed".

He said he was hoping for sex when he called at the victim's home but that it was "never going to get to rape".

The man, whom Kent Online has chosen not to identify, described the woman as "hysterical and screaming".

"She looked pure panic-stricken," he said. "I was expecting a wink or a nod but seeing that face the bottom fell out of everything."

He added: "I could have been done for rape. This poor girl was scared...I even felt someone was watching it."

A psychiatrist who prepared a report for the sentencing hearing concluded that Berry was not suffering from any mental illness and that her continuing denial was within her control.

However, the report described Berry as "vulnerable with low self-esteem" and someone who "invented stories of having suffered a number of calamities out of a desire to maintain the attention of others and to solicit their support and sympathy".

During his sentencing remarks, Judge Griffith-Jones said such role play that Berry described could not be criticised between consenting adults.

Detective Inspector Geoffery Payne said after the case: "Berry caused the victim a lot of distress. She intentionally contacted men claiming to be the victim and arranged for them to turn up at the victim’s home to take part in sexual acts.

"The victim was approached on two occasions by men she did not know. Although both men left after realising there had been a mistake, this was a terrifying ordeal for the victim - being approached by strangers at your home, a place where you should always feel safe.

"Berry denied any involvement, but evidence gathered and provided by the victim proved her guilt, yet she has shown no remorse.

"I would like to commend the victim for having the courage to come forward and report the incidents to police, and for the bravery she has shown during the trial. Kent Police will continue to support victims of crime and gather evidence to put before the courts to ensure offenders are brought to justice."

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