Rape conviction rates depend on where you live

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The Independent Online

The prosecution of rape in Britain is a lottery, with defendants in some parts of the country13 times more likely to escape conviction.

Figures published today also reveal huge regional variations in the support that women receive when they first make an allegation.

The Fawcett's Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice System, says the region with the worst record of rape convictions is Gloucestershire where fewer than one in 100 complaints results in a successful prosecution. This compares with 14 convictions from 100 complaints in Northamptonshire.

Almost half of all adult women in England and Wales have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Police in London receive on average two calls a week from women and girls reporting crimes linked to the notion of honour, such as forced marriage and murder threats by family members.

Yet there are only 14 criminal justice areas in England and Wales that have a sexual assault referral centre to support women who have been attacked. The report adds that, in many areas, rape crisis centres are either non-existent or are so understaffed that women must several months for an appointment.

The MP Vera Baird, QC, who chairs the Fawcett's Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice System, said: "It's unacceptable that a rape victim's chances of getting justice depend on where she lives. There is some good work being done in some areas of the country, while others are lagging behind. We need an integrated approach that gives women all over the country confidence in the system, delivers justice and prevents violence in the first place."

The commission wants the Government to take an integrated approach to all forms of violence against women by preventing violence through education and public information.

Yesterday, the Government launched its own programme for combating the discrepancy between allegations of rape and the number of cases that end in a conviction. One proposal includes the use of video interviews with victims, within hours of the offence - to support the credibility of the woman's evidence.