Specialist lawyers to take on rape cases

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The Independent Online

Rape cases are to be prosecuted by specialist barristers with expertise in getting convictions for sexual assaults, under a new scheme designed to ensure that more offenders go to jail.

Ministers, worried by the low rate of convictions for rape, said there needed to be a big increase in the number of female barristers and senior judges.

Harriet Harman, the Solicitor General, set out plans yesterday to boost conviction rates after a report found that just 7.25 per cent of allegations of rape reported to the police resulted in convictions. She announced government plans to establish a network of specialist rape prosecutors, who understand the sensitive issues surrounding sexual assault, to represent victims.

"We must ensure that women can have confidence that the criminal justice system will take rape allegations seriously and prosecute them effectively and that offenders must know that they can't get away with it," Ms Harman said.

The announcement has come after a report by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate showed serious failings in the way victims were treated by the police and courts. Of the 1,741 cases analysed, attackers were charged or cautioned in just 28 per cent of them. Out of 230 cases referred to the CPS, 43 per cent went to court, and seven out of 10 defendants who denied the charges were acquitted.