Leading article: Greater understanding is needed

Share

Something is seriously wrong with our judicial process if only 5.6 per cent of rapes reported in England and Wales result in the defendant being found guilty as charged. That is barely one in 20.

This tiny conviction rate is unsatisfactory from every point of view. It means that many victims, who have often had to pluck up considerable courage to go to the police, are probably not receiving the protection of the law they deserve. It means that the police and the courts are spending time and money on proceedings that have little chance of resulting in a conviction. It also suggests that some of those charged are escaping the prison sentence they should be serving. The attention that David Cameron's recent speech on the subject attracted was proof that not for the first time he had struck a popular chord. For all these reasons, we applaud the Government's decision that juries in rape trials should be given information about the ways in which such attacks can affect the behaviour of the victim at the time and the lasting psychological effects they can have. This, at least, should help juries to appreciate the full gravity of the crime.

There is still some way to go, however, before juries receive their packs. A group of judges, doctors and others has now to consider what information should be supplied and how. This may be necessary, but the whole process seems to lack any sense of urgency while providing ample opportunity for ministers to boast about how actively they are addressing this "women's issue".

It is true that much has changed over the years, mostly for the better, in the way the crime of rape is treated by the authorities. Specialist police units are designed to minimise the further trauma for victims. Police and prosecutors are in general more professional about how they prepare their cases, and some of the most distressing lines of questioning have been closed off. Women, too, are more aware of their rights and readier to defend them.

But official figures also reveal considerable regional variation, both in the number of prosecutions and their success. Unsympathetic judges still make an appearance in court reports. And while we absolutely reject the notion of targets for convictions that way lies subverted justice and a queue of appeals there is clearly a need to bring the worst performers up to the standard of the best.

More information should not do anything to make jurors less inclined to err on the side of presuming innocence. "He said, she said" scenarios are inherently difficult to judge. But if the initiative helps to narrow the gap of comprehension between those who have suffered rape and those who have not, it will make a valuable contribution.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss