Rapists escape justice 'because of police attitudes to women'

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The Independent Online

Rapists escape justice because of police and prosecutors' outdated attitudes to victims.

A report out this week will highlight huge differences in how police forces in England and Wales treat victims. The report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate is expected to warn there is still a culture among police where the assessment of victims is too "subjective" and "vulnerable to stereotyping". It is understood that in some forces as many as 40 per cent of rape reports do not progress beyond the investigation stage, while in others the figure is nearer 4 or 5 per cent. The Government is already under pressure to tighten rape laws because of the tiny number of convictions. Proposals include hiring rape advocates to guide victims through the evidence and trial processes.

The report reveals that the number of offences initially recorded as rape which are then dropped or not pursued by victims is rising. It also recommends more use of experts in investigations and says police should focus on the strengths, not weaknesses, of victims' evidence. Of 677 rape cases reported between April and May 2005 that were analysed by the Metropolitan Police, a quarter were not even recorded as crimes and a third of these were written off at the first stage of investigation, which goes against the strict guidelines governing the recording of crime.