Tory ministers ‘kicking can down the road’ on ‘appalling’ rape convictions record
Crime / Wed 23rd Jun 2021 at 12:19pm
THE government has been accused of “kicking the can down the road” over its appalling rape conviction record reports The Mirror
Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, described a long awaited government Rape Review published last week as “underwhelming”.
Rape convictions have dropped to a record low in recent years, with only 1.6 per cent of reported cases ending in a charge, latest figures show.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has apologised to victims for the fall and promised to “do a lot better”.
Dame Vera, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday: “There is a very large amount of kicking the can down the road, having more pilots, and causing delay, in there.
“Nonetheless, this is a watershed.
“As long as the strength of that (Government) apology … survives, and is publicly scrutinised, I hope that we can really bring a change and push from the outside to improve some of the weaker recommendations in the Rape Review and drive the Government further.”
Campaigners and survivors said the ambition to return to 2016 figures, published last week in the review, were welcome – but should not be considered the end target.
The latest Crown Prosecution Service figures for 2019-20 show 1,439 suspects were convicted of rape or lesser offences in England and Wales last year – the lowest level since records began.
It is down down from 1,925 the previous year, despite reports of adult rape to police almost doubling since 2015-16.
There were 4,643 rape prosecutions in 2015-16.
Emily Hunt, a survivor who advised on the Government’s review, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: “None of this has been good enough, none of us thought 2016 numbers were good enough then.
“The idea that we are where we are now is something that none of us could have imagined then.”
She said the “suspect-focused” model – a key tenet of the review, to move scrutiny away from the complainant – “completely transforms the way we deal with rape in this country”.
Ms Hunt added: “This is not the time for a pat on the back or a victory lap. None of this has been good enough.”
Around 13% of reported rape cases in 2015-16 ended in a suspect being charged, but this dropped to just 3% in 2019-20.
There are an estimated 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape a year, but only 1.6% of reported cases results in a charge, according to latest figures.
Ms Hunt told the committee: “I think we need to do better and prosecute rapists – I’m also aware we can’t just flip a switch, the culture needs to change in the police and the CPS.”
The main issue with rape is that it’s an almost impossible crime to prove and disprove. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, even after the act. Which takes a normal sexual encounter into dark territory. Then you also have false claims in which perpetrators are accused by jaded ex-partners, and so on. Then on top of that you also have the fear of reporting, where individuals know who the Taoist is but are too scared to come forward with information. Add to that the other end of the spectrum where a rapist may target a victim in an area where it is both dark and less dense populated and you have a problem with their being no witnesses... the issue isn’t that the police are doing a bad job, it’s that the crime in and of itself is by its very nature almost impossible to convict. Without video evidence to prove or disprove a crime taking place, the conviction rate will undoubtedly remain the same. The only way we can ensure that we cut the numbers of sexual assault is by ensuring that we are aware of who it is we are encountering, avoiding places where we may feel uncomfortable and of course maintaining contact with someone if we do have to travel a darker path at night... it is sad and cruel that women can’t walk the streets safely at night, but unless the police put in a bit more of a budget and add more patrols to the roads, we aren’t ever going to be awarded the safety that we desperately need. The same applies for men too, as not only two years or so ago a man was raped in a public place in Harlow too...