Only a quarter of reported rapes now reach court and the conviction rate has fallen to 9 per cent. One of the reasons for this could be that date rapes account for half of reported attacks, compared to 35 per cent in 1985, and such attacks can be notoriously difficult to prove. Betsy Stanko, a professor in criminology at the Brunel University, said most barristers now opted to use the defence of consent so that they could introduce evidence of sexual history to discredit the reputation of the victim.
She said: "It seems to me that the reason why convictions have fallen so drastically is that more victims have been encouraged to come forward and yet their stories are more likely to be kicked back to them because defence is increasingly focused on consent."
Sinita Vig, 43, a health visitor and mother of three, was raped by a family friend and part-time priest in 1995.
Despite pressure from parts of her community in Hounslow, west London, to drop the case, she went to police. But she told a conference of senior police officers last September that she was refused permission to give her evidence at the Old Bailey from behind a screen.
"As it stands, the victims feel they are facing charges and being out on trial," Ms Vig said. "The defence have to defend their client. However, why do they need to be insensitive to someone who has been through an horrific experience?"
A spokesman for the Law Society said yesterday that judges were being "too liberal" with defence barristers. "We actually think that judges are not being tough enough and are allowing information about victims' past sexual history to be used even when it's not directly relevant to the evidence being given," the spokesman said.
"It's being used to discredit the victim as a witness rather than being about the actual allegations."
A WOMAN from Belfast was brutally beaten, raped and held prisoner by her attacker in an ordeal that lasted for more than four hours. She was attacked in November last year at a friend's party in the early hours of the morning but despite her screams for help was left unaided. She said the man beat her senseless, ripped off her clothes and raped her.The woman alleged that her assailant was an ex-boyfriend who lived in the same street.
AN 80-year-old woman was raped in the bedroom of her Birmingham home in March in an attack described by police as "atrocious and vile". The pensioner, who was living on her own, was held down and raped on her bed after the man broke down the front door of her home at 5.30am. The woman, who was said to be "extremely traumatised", was treated in hospital for bruising, cuts to her face and severe shock.
TWO secretaries were raped by their boss who threatened to sack them if they complained. They had already been subjected to a string of attacks in the office of the married man's company. Judge Peter Jacobs told Martin Bristow: "You treated these girls with cruelty and contempt. Their lot was one of total misery... you instigated a regime of harassment." Mr Bristow, of Newport, Gwent, convicted in Cardiff, was jailed for 11 years in March.
TWO 16-year-old girls were picked up by three men in Walsall and, after being bought drinks, they were taken to woods at Sutton Park and attacked. One of the three men told the girls they had a gun in the car before forcing them to submit to acts of indecency. At Wolverhampton Crown Court, Judge Frank Chapman said: "I accept these girls may have been naive and foolish. But young people are often foolish and they do not see the dangers ahead."
A WOMAN who hired a minicab home after a late-night party in December was raped after falling asleep. She was the 19th victim of the year to report being raped in a London minicab. The woman later told police that she had woken up at a petrol station in an unknown location, with her seat reclined and her seat-belt unfastened. The driver paid for some petrol before driving to a back road and raping her.
A 12-YEAR-old girl who was waiting at a bus stop in Greater Manchester was snatched by a man and dragged into a park where she was forced to drink a liquid from a bottle. The girl was then raped. The girl suffered partial amnesia after the attack and complained to police of dizziness. Officers said they believed she may have been given the drug Rophynol, the so-called "date rape" drug, which induces a trance-like, uninhibited state.
A WOMAN of 20 who accepted a pre-Christmas drink from a man in a bar inside the Trocadero Centre, in London, was raped after she went outside after feeling unwell. The woman told police that she believed she had been followed outside and raped, possibly by more than one attacker. Blood tests revealed she did not have excessive levels of alcohol in her system and police said they were investigating the possible use of Rophynol.
A TEENAGE girl who was offered a walk home in Edinburgh was tripped up on a path and raped. The girl fell victim to a Canadian teenager who posed as a student to win the confidence of young women walking alone. Another victim, a 19-year-old barmaid, escaped after she had been fondled. Martin Taylor, who was jailed for seven years in April this year, was trapped by a 1471 telephone trace after he tried to contact his victim.
A 17-YEAR-old Italian tourist was in a coma for five days last August after jumping from a second-floor window to escape from a man who raped her.
Police said later that they believed a serial rapist, using a string of false names, had adopted a tactic of luring women back to his London flat, where he attacked them, sometimes at knifepoint.
The attacks took place in Stoke Newington, north London.
A FEMALE prisoner reported having been raped by a male officer at a jail in Cheshire. Her alleged attacker was charged with the offence in January leading to increased concern that prison security procedures were failing to protect women from attacks by male members of staff. The prison service has been obliged to introduce cross-sex posting to fall into line with equal-opportunities guidelines.
A MOTHER was bound, gagged and blindfolded before being raped in her home as her two-year-old son watched a video. David Gorman, of Brentwood, Essex was jailed for 18 years for the horrific attack which took place in Shrewsbury 18 months ago. The jury at Truro Crown Court heard that he had tried to trick his way into the homes of other young women whom he had tracked back to their homes after seeing them in the street.
A PREGNANT woman was raped by two men and left semi-conscious with a broken jaw after they had tried to suffocate her. The victim, who was five months pregnant at the time of the attack, was bludgeoned with a hammer and then partially suffocated.
Police said the woman had accepted a lift from the two men but was then raped in a north London park. She was kept in hospital for two weeks after the attack.
A WOMAN of 27 who had spent a night out with a girlfriend was attacked and raped after she decided not to wait for a taxi in December. Instead she tried to walk home but was approached by a man in a south London street. He pulled her from the road and dragged her into a footpath where she was forced to the ground and raped. The man, who was aged around 19, spoke with a French or Italian accent.
A 16-YEAR-OLD girl was the victim of a double rape after a dispute over a stolen pushchair. She was taken to a flat in Birmingham where she was raped by two men.
Royston Goodhall and Leroy Elliot, both 19, were each sentenced in April to eight years. Charmaine Burton, of Handsworth, was found guilty of robbery following the trial. Burton had her pushchair stolen and believed that the rape victim knew where the culprit lived.
A WOMAN was bundled into the boot of her Mercedes car and abducted before being raped in a seven-hour ordeal. The attack happened in spite of a desperate call for help on a mobile phone which the woman had in her pocket. She called a friend who contacted the police but a search failed to find her in time. She was discovered by a farmer who heard her cries for help from the boot of the car which was dumped in a Midlands field last October.
DEBORAH STREAMER, 35, was given a five-figure payment after bringing a sexual harassment case against the Territorial Army, claiming that she had been raped by a captain in London. Ms Streamer said she had suffered a barrage of sexual assaults and abuse over three years. The tribunal heard that she became "reclusive and depressed" after "appalling treatment" which she said included being raped and groped.
AN INTERNATIONAL athlete was raped in an alley after she left a bar. On the night of the alleged assault the runner had returned from a family holiday in Florida and was drinking with her best friend in a bar in Ealing, West London. She was jet-lagged and had drunk more than she realised when she left the bar. Two Polish men, Jaroslaw Kunkel, 31, and Jacek Pacyna, 23, were jailed in April for eight years for the attack.
A GIRL of 15 who was walking home from a school carol concert was raped by a man wearing a mask. The girl, who was wearing her school uniform was attacked and thrown to the ground as she walked across wasteland in December. She was the seventh victim in a series of attacks in Harlow, Essex.
Research by Linus Gregoriadis, Pippa Crear, Ian Burrell