'Postcode lottery' for rape victims

Conviction rates for rape remain low
Conviction rates for rape remain low

Rape victims across the country face wildly varying chances of seeing their attacker caught, a new report has revealed.

An investigation by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate reveals the detection rate for rape varies from seven to 60.4 per cent across police forces.

This is despite the number of rapes being reported to police rising by 41 per cent over the past five years. Currently, just 5.3 per cent of all reported rapes end in conviction.

Fawcett Society director Katherine Rake said: "It is a national disgrace that the treatment that rape victims receive and the chances of their attacker being convicted are determined by their postcode."

Home Office minister Joan Ryan admitted the conviction rate "remained too low" and said the government was examining proposals to allow experts to give evidence in court "to address myths about rape and its victims" in an attempt to boost convictions.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) admitted jurors' perceptions about rape remain a barrier to convictions, citing a 2005 Amnesty survey showing a quarter of people believe women wearing provocative clothes were responsible for being raped.

But today's inspectorate report also criticised the police for failing to investigate all claims properly. It said 32 per cent of rape allegations decided by police not to be crimes, were wrongly assessed and failed to meet Home Office guidelines.

And it said in some of those cases "subjective judgments had been made about the complainant's credibility", such as if victims had been drinking. In just over half of all rapes the victim or the suspect or both had been drinking.

Liberal Democrat constitutional affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said: "Nothing undermines women's confidence in the criminal justice system more than the belief that the most serious form of assault is unlikely to result in a successful police action."

But at prime minister's question time, Tony Blair said victims were now treated "with far greater care and attention to trauma" than a decade ago, and argued the nature of most rapes inevitably made them difficult to prosecute.

"I think it's just fair to say that over 80 per cent of rape cases involve non-stranger rape, in other words the particular alleged assailant is actually known to the victim, and over 50 per cent of those cases are where there is either a partner involved or ex-partner," he said.

"Now for those reasons, I think that it is obvious it will always be more difficult to secure a conviction."

To read more responses to this report see our Issue of the Day


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