Oliver Duff

i Editor's Letter: Our judicial system must learn to separate fact from fiction in rape trials

 

Share

 

Few crimes are so reliant on the testimony of the victim as rape. And for some defence barristers, a rape  victim’s character is still fair game. The  sort of aggressive cross-examination by defence barristers determined to break victims’ resolve was supposed to have been consigned to the past, but  persists. Last year, horrifically, in the middle of a trial for sexual assault, the  victim, Frances Andrade, killed herself after being accused of lying.

It is unusual that a Director of  Public Prosecutions speaks so publicly about the failings of the legal system. But in an interview with i, Alison Saunders today calls for an overhaul of judges’ guidance to juries in rape trials. The rape  conviction rate is unacceptably low, she says, and some women have lost faith in the legal system: “I think it has a broader impact on the willingness of people to come forward and report that they have been raped.”

Myths are still propagated about a  victim’s sexual history, and about the effect of any alcohol they have drunk, Ms Saunders says – so, before jurors hear evidence, judges must warn them not to form false judgements.

Police and prosecutors are still not getting to grips with the crime, despite extra training, more victim support (though this remains negligible, for such a stigmatising crime) and specialist forensic centres. As we  reported on Friday, the conviction rate is falling, again, and the number of cases referred to prosecutors has fallen by a third in two years, despite a rise in recorded offences. As  the former DPP Keir Starmer told i: “It is not due to rape offences  dropping, I am certain about that.”

Many women never come forward.  Research suggests that only about 6  per cent of rape offences result in a conviction for rape.

This situation shames one of the world’s finest judicial systems.

Ms Saunders’ new guidance on how police and prosecutors must handle rape cases, due later this year, cannot come soon enough.

i@independent.co.uk

Twitter.com: @olyduff

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: pours or pores, pulverised, ‘in preference for’ and lists

Guy Keleny
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect