Leading article: Prejudice, myth, and a system that fails the victim

Share
Related Topics

There has been some discussion in the House of Lords of late over what should be done about women who falsely accuse men of rape

There is a far greater scandal in our criminal justice system than the small number of men who are victims of malicious accusations: the vast number of men who are committing rape and getting away with it. Less than six per cent of rape allegations in the UK result in conviction, one of the lowest rates in Europe. Few would suggest that 94 per cent of allegations of rape are false. This failure by our courts to hold so many to account must therefore be acknowledged as an outrage. It is certainly difficult to prove the charge of rape. But our courts should be doing far better than they are.

In fairness to the Government, ministers have been attempting to increase the abysmally low conviction rate for some time. The police have been ordered to improve their practice for collecting evidence and statements from rape victims. The number of sexual assault referral centres has increased. Efforts are being made to improve procedures in courtrooms too. A greater use of police video interviews with victims is under consideration. Expert witnesses are to be allowed to testify about the trauma of victims, making it easier for juries to understand why there is frequently a delay in the reporting of such crimes. Greater protection for those unable to consent to sex because of alcohol is under review.

But this is not enough. Although many of the correct facilities for dealing with an accusation of rape are in place, they are not being used properly. According to a joint report by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, police forces are dismissing rape allegations in nearly one third of cases when they should be investigated further.

The report shines a bright light on where the system is failing rape victims. For instance, it argues there is little consistency in the way forensic doctors are employed to examine victims. Call-out lists and rotas for police officers who have been specially trained to deal with such crimes are poorly managed. Front-line police officers have very little training to deal with the crime before specialists arrive. Proper police work at an early stage is essential to the prosecution case. All of these failures decrease the likelihood of conviction. The police and the prosecuting authorities must be made to understand by the Government that their underperformance will not be tolerated.

The crime of rape is still shrouded in myth and prejudice. A disturbingly huge proportion of the population believes it is somehow the woman's "fault" if she gets drunk and is subsequently raped. And as the fallout of the Blackwell case shows, there is still a willingness to believe that malicious accusations of rape are common. It is because of this context that Lord Goldmsith's decision to reconsider the granting of anonymity for accusers is so dangerous. Such a hostile signal from the law is likely to discourage women from coming forward.

More women than ever are reporting rapes to the police. But anonymous surveys still suggest that only a small proportion of women who have been abused in this way are coming forward. Our criminal justice system is still not securing justice for the victims of rape. Ministers should devote their energies to putting this right before they turn their attention to other problems.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jack Warner  

Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Tom Peck
Army reservist Corporal James Dunsby  

Whether it’s in the City, the Army or at school, this ritual sadism has to stop

Chris Blackhurst
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back