Public tough on police rapists

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The Independent Online
Police officers who rape should be jailed for longer than professional and working class offenders, a survey has found.

Research also revealed that many people continue to believe myths about rape, such as that women who wear short skirts, get drunk, and walk home late at night are more likely to be raped. Research shows, however, that most women are attacked by someone they know, during "date rapes" for example, and that assaults usually occur indoors.

In the study, presented to the conference of the British Psychological Society's criminological and legal division, a sample group of about 100 was given four scenarios in which a rape was carried out and asked to complete a questionnaire. The stories included a lorry driver attacking an unemployed mother, a police officer raping an accountant after an office party, a lecturer assaulting a student, and a homeless man raping a school cook.

The group believed the police officer should get the longest sentence, which ranged from seven years to life, and all members wanted longer jail terms than are given in court. The second most severe sentence went to the lorry driver, who threatened to kill his victim, followed by the lecturer and the homeless person. The longest sentences were recommended for "respectable" rapists irrespective of the victims' "respectability". Few participants blamed the victims or stated that the attacks were "foreseeable".

An unexpected finding of the research, by Michelle Dolphin and Joanna Adler of the department of psychology at Kent University, was that a third of the 50 women in the sample questioned reported that they had been raped or sexually assaulted. The victims were less likely to subscribe to the rape stereotypes.

Military style regimes at American "boot camps" - recently imported to the British penal system - fail to deter inmates from reoffending, the conference was told.

American research suggests the only positive effect on the offenders appears to be linked to rehabilitation programmes or intensive post-release supervision.

Britain's first boot camp for young offenders opened in July at Thorn Cross Young Offenders Institution in Warrington. Inmates aged between 18 and 21 will face intensive physical training and education.

Danielle Hudson, a forensic psychologist, in a review of published work on the "success" of boot camps, concluded that "there is no clear evidence of any beneficial effects resulting from a regime's military emphasis".

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