QotD: Rape cases dropped ‘due to police stereotyping’

Police and prosecutors are behind a decline in the number of suspects being charged with rape because they are ignoring crucial evidence and stereotyping victims, a report has warned.

The report by a group of women’s justice organisations highlights a litany of errors that they say are denying rape victims justice. They claim that black, Asian and minority ethnic women and disabled people are likely to suffer the worst treatment in the justice system.

The report said that rape cases were being dropped even in situations when the use of weapons and serious injuries were documented, a suspect was shown to be lying or several victims had given testimony against one suspect.

It added that the Crown Prosecution Service had implied incorrectly that rape cases could be closed when they involved “one word against another” without any corroborating evidence.

In some cases women were still subjected to myths and stereotypes surrounding rape — such as whether the victim had been drinking, or whether the rape took place within a relationship — which meant that cases were not pursued to trial. This was despite police and prosecutors receiving specialist training to combat stereotypes. One woman who had been sexually abused by her grandfather told the report’s authors that the authorities dealing with her case insisted on referring to it as “honour-based violence”. She told them: “The first question they kept asking me was, ‘Oh, are you scared of forced marriage?’ That’s the only thing they were looking at.”

The report highlighted research indicating that white suspects were more likely to avoid further investigation if a victim was from a minority group, whereas offenders were more likely to be prosecuted if they were from a minority group. It added that disabled women were likely to be “infantilised” and discriminated against by the justice system. The report, published today, was drawn up by the Centre for Women’s Justice, the End Violence against Women Coalition, Imkaan, an organisation that addresses violence against women and girls from minority groups, and Rape Crisis England and Wales. It has been sent to Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, who is overseeing a review of the issue, and is due to be discussed by MPs this afternoon.

The report said that of the estimated 100,000 adults raped last year, including 12,000 male victims, 55,259 were reported to police. There were 2,102 prosecutions and 1,439 convictions.

The Centre for Women’s Justice said: “Our report reveals catastrophic systemic failures in the criminal justice system that embolden serial rapists and misogynists and abandon traumatised victims.”

The report’s recommendations include formalising second opinions when rape cases are closed with “no further action” by police, and banning the use of “sexual history evidence” by the defence in rape trials.

Sarah Crew, a deputy chief constable and the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for rape, said: “The most recent statistics on rape and sexual assault show police are referring more files to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision compared with a few months ago, and we will continue to work hard to build the strongest possible cases so more victims get the opportunity to have the evidence heard in court.”

A government spokeswoman said: “Victims of rape deserve to know that their cases will be taken seriously and everything will be done to bring offenders to justice. That is why we are reviewing the response to this horrific crime, in consultation with survivors’ groups and experts across the sector, and will carefully consider this report.”


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