Life

The charge rate for rape in England and Wales has fallen, and it’s a sign that the justice system is failing victims

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Lauren Geall
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Rape victim let down by justice system

The overall charge rate for rape has fallen by 2.6% in the last year, even though the number of cases being reported is up.

The number of charges brought in rape cases has fallen in the last year, despite an increase in the number of reports brought to the police.

According to new data published by the Rape Monitoring Group (RMG), the overall charge rate decreased in 2017/18 compared to the previous year, dropping from 6.8% to 4.2%. There was also a decrease in the number of suspects found guilty of rape – 1,062 in 2017/18 compared to 1,350 the year before.

Perhaps most worryingly, the number of reported rapes has actually seen a significant increase, from 41,186 to 54,045.

The data, taken from the Home Office, Office for National Statistics, Crown Prosecution Service and Ministry of Justice, covers all 43 Home Office police forces in England and Wales, as well as the British Transport Police. 

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The trend towards more reported rapes and fewer convictions has raised fears that victims aren’t receiving justice – and the victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird has warned that the criminal justice system could be putting more people at risk by failing to tackle potential serial rapists.

“Only one in every 50 cases results in a conviction. How can this be justice?” she told The Guardian, in response to the new figures. “We know that nearly four in five victims of sexual assault choose not to report the crimes committed against them. How can we ever give these victims the confidence to report when so few cases ever secure a conviction?”

“We need to understand the reasons behind this failure,” she continued. “It is in part down to the treatment of complainants by police and prosecutors – for example, failing to update them on investigations or making intrusive and disproportionate demands on their personal data. We also know that the treatment of complainants in the courtroom can cause trauma and distress.”

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The London Victims’ Commissioner has called out the Criminal Justice System for failing women

The news follows the London’s Victims’ Comissioner Claire Waxman’s response to figures which suggest only 3% of rape allegations made in London end up in convictions, in which she called on the government “to ensure victims have access to fully funded legal support”.

Appearing on the Victoria Derbyshire programme, Claire Waxman pointed out the problems inherent in the current justice system.

“The system is deeply entrenched in myths and stereotypes, a victim almost has to prove they’re not lying,” she said. “They worry that their counselling records might have something in them or there may be some digital evidence that might have something that could be used against them unfairly. That isn’t right.”

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