Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rape and anonymity

The Lib-Cons have opened up a rather old can of worms with this particular idea -- giving those accused of rape the right to anonymity.

It has been branded an insult by some groups, who feel that the focus should be on low conviction rates, and not on the few claims that are false. But on what basis do they say that few claims are false? On what basis do they say that most of the claims are true?

To find out whether there is any truth in a claim, it must be tested in court, and tested rigorously. And they are. And the conviction rate is not high.

The conviction rate for rape cases that go to trial is lower than for other crimes: 44% in London, as against 80ish% for general crime. Why does this gap exist? Simple. Jurors are believing alleged victims of rape less often than they are believing alleged victims of other crimes.

To change this, you'll need to change how jurors think. Which is a slightly bigger issue than can be solved by getting judges to make so-called "rape myth directions".

A jury must be satisfied so that it is sure that the facts constituting the offence took place, and that the mental element of the offence, where required, was present. When one considers the consequences for those convicted -- incarceration for many years -- it is only right that the allegation made against them be tested thoroughly.

Conversely, when one considers the particularly abhorrent nature of the crime of rape, and its potential for lifelong effects, it is only right that those convicted are incarcerated for many years.

As things stand, the conviction rate in London is below 44%, and it's 58.2% nationwide. That's a lot of men who have stood trial for rape, and a lot of women who haven't been believed by the jury, for whatever reason.

Given the effect of an unfounded rape allegation, and the publicity that can ensue, if more than half of the men who stand trial for rape in London are being acquitted, maybe anonymity's time has come. Again.


  1. And there are tens of thousands of people raped each year who never report it, partly because they are scared that they will not be believed. And who can blame them when even a CPS prosecutor writes (not for the first time) a blog post that suggests that women do often lie about being raped.

  2. Rape is a rather over used word. There are lots of people having sex, but not that many true rapes. however, you want to fram it most people think rape is forced sex against a persons will, not consensual sex with a interruprion.
    Thank god for jurors and the way they think and I'm not concerned at all that the conviction rates are low, if thats what they are.

    A jury is supposed to express the will of society so we have no business trying to change it- if a jury wants to aquit, then they should aquit.

    Given that there are a high proportion of spurious allegations in rape cases, it is about time anonymity was given to a defendant, the damage just being accused of such a crime can do to someones life is immense and not justice if at the end of the day there is an aquittal.

    What's more a defendant is INNOCENT until proved guilty.innuendo is not enough.

  3. How do we know there are tens of thousands raped each year if it isn't reported?

  4. "And who can blame them when even a CPS prosecutor writes (not for the first time) a blog post that suggests that women do often lie about being raped."

    Please point me towards that article written by a CPS Prosecutor, because it certainly isn't the one you commented on. Try reading the article's actual words rather than what you want it to say to give you a chance to rant on a sensitive subject...

  5. Its strange isn't it that on the one hand there is a lot of heat generated when the 'JURY' is mentioned and god forbid any suggestion that it should be done away with or curtailed. On the otherhand when a jury does what it is supposed to do that is give a verdict on the facts they have heard according to law all hell breaks out. and, then they talk of changing the jury's mind. The reallity is the jury is our conscience and thats that!

  6. Of course there should be anonymity for defendants in rape cases - whether there are x or y numbers of false accusations it's totally unjust that a woman can have anonymity as an accuser and the def. not. Women (and I include myself) may have morning after regrets as we enjoy our sexual freedom but most of us have the good sense to forget it and move on no matter how much we loathe ourselves and everybody else at that time

  7. I've been in support of this for a long time. A close friend of mine was accused of rape by his (at the time) girlfriend. She broke down in court and said she lied. She wasn't prosecuted, but even today (over 2 years after her confession) my friend still suffers from the negative press that he received at the time. Local papers calling him a danger to society and generally painting an image of him as being a total scum bag. However, all was forgotten when the girl confessed it was a lie. No character assassination by the press for her! People still view my friend with suspicion and still to this day have the “no smoke without fire” frame of mind. He has attempted to take his life twice as a result of this whole ordeal, totally wrecked his life. Meanwhile his accuser walks around without a care in the world.

  8. An accusation of rape is an attempt to get a man jailed for many years, ruin his reputation and generally destroy what he thinks of as his life. If the accusation is true, this is not a speck less than he deserves.

    However it is a serious matter, and the accuser should be prepared to stand behind the accusation. If she is not, she should not make it.

    Neither party should be anonymous. Justice should be done in public.

  9. I too work in the criminal justice system and have many dealings with rapes cases. Over the past two years I would say that at least 60%of "rape victims" in cases I have dealt with have lied. Some of the reasons false allegations have been made include:(i) after consensual sex the woman asked for £5 to buy some chicken and chips however the man refused, she made a false allegation; (ii) a young female met up with her boyfriend for sex in a park. She was two hours late going home and received a threatening text message from her mother, she made a false allegation; (iii) two young girls met up with some youngs boys and sepnt the night with them having sex. The girls' mothers' reported them missing. When they resurfaced they alleged rape and false imprisonment, a week later they confessed to the police they had lied out of fear of their parents; (iv) a woman having exhausted all means of applications to remain in the UK falsely alleged that her estranged husband had raped her; (v) a young girl who was having consensual sex with a young male over a period of 18 months alleged sex because the male ejaculated all over her bedding. The male, except on this occasion, always used a condom and the girl realised she could not expalin to her mother why there was semen all over her bed, she made an allegation of rape; (vi) a female on work experience slept with her supervisor in the hope that she would get a job at a bank, when she didn't she made an allegation of rape. When the police recovered her emails they found an email she sent to a friend the morning after in which she said she had willingly slept with the Defendant. I can go on. What people need to appreciate is that women do, for various reasons, lie about being raped just as people lie about of matters.

  10. @Anonymous 13:52 makes a good point.

    60% seems high to me, but what do I know? It's not uncommon for those working in the criminal justice system to report very high estimates of the rate of false allegations of rape. No doubt this varies according to which bit of the system you work in - you may not see certain types of cases depending on your job.

    Home office research based on one force showed that 9% of allegations are coded as false allegations, which home office guidelines say should only be done where the complainant admits the allegation was false.

    (The figure was 12% of the 80% attrition at police stage,

    "Victim withdrew" and "victim declined to complete initial process" account for 14% each, and "insufficient evidence", which the authors say often went to the credibility of the complainant, was 17%. Some of those surely must also be false allegations where the complainant thought better of it?

    (In fact this admission was not documented in about 2/3 of the cases, leading the authors to claim an optimistic 3% in their conclusion. Based on the tenor of the report this lower figure was still too high for their liking. Moral: Never rely on the conclusion, look at the tables and discussion.)

    Consider the withrawals and insufficient evidence, (which between them account for nearly half of cases). If they break down the same way, the figure is double that.

    The point is that 9% is the absolute lower limit of plausibility, as an estimate of the number of allegations which are truly false. A figure north of 20% is in no way contradicted by the evidence.

  11. Humans tell lies. Women are good at it - I know because I am one and I see it everyday. I know someone who spent 5 years in jail because a girl lied about him sexually abusing her. She told her friends what she had done but because he can't afford to go to court he is regarded as a sexual offender. She was 12 at the time and could lie to Gold medal standard

  12. BTW, I featured your blawg in my round-up of new entrants to the 'sphere over at Law Actually! :-)


  13. I would urge anyone using statistics about rape convictions to listen to the piece More or Less , the Radio 4 numbers & stats programme did about it in August 2009. Very interesting listening.

  14. One possible explanation for the low conviction rate, is that the CPS is allowing cases to go to court that shouldn't.
    Take Jack Tweed. One defendant who you might expect to find it hard to get a fair trial. But no. The jury took 15 minutes to find him not guilty. Which probably came as no surprise to anyone.

  15. The nature of Rape is inveitably going to mean that convictions are difficult. In general rape is a private crime that takes place between two people with very little possibility of witnesses and very little in the way of physical evidence. Of course it is possible to say that two people had sex, but if one says it was concential and other one not then who should the jury believe. Of course in some cases they may be evidence of a struggle that points towards rape, but in many cases the victim does not struggle a great deal due to fear, alcohol or other factors.

    When the only real evidence is one person's word against another it is understandable that juries are reluctant to send someone to prison for a long time based on their best guess of who is telling the truth, and a guess is all it really would be. Of course this would regretable and it would be better if more rapists were convicted, but this cannot be achieved at the expense of innocent men being jailed for long periods.

    As far as anonimity goes, I strongly believe that innocent people should not be punished. The fact that rape is just a detested crime (rightly so) and the evidence tends to be inconclusive means that somebody accused of rape is likely to suffer unpleasent consequences even if he is found not-guilty. Anonimity is one way to twy and protect the innocent from those consequences

  16. Arnold is absolutely right.
    The CPS is so spineless these days that no decent prosecutor is going to risk the rath of his superior in taking the difficult decision when really he should. THe CPS these days seem to be so concerned with the public image it generates, rather than making sure the right decisons are taken to prosecute truely deserving defendants who on a dispassionate view of the evidence look like they are guilty, instead of the marginal case which should be binned straight away

  17. Yesterday we had the acquittal of Olumide Fadayomi, and the conviction of two young boys. Both involved the judge criticising the CPS.

  18. According to the Telegraph, 60% of all rape allegations charged result in a conviction.

    I am sure that I remember seeing an analysis on tv or in the press that suggested that when you look at the per centage of convictions arising from the number of trials rape in fact had a higher conviction rate than burglary. I can't find or remember where I heard that though so I don't discount it being a pile of rubbish.

    Bowstreetrunner, as a defence solicitor I have to disagree with you about CPS lawyers refusing to prosecute difficult cases. I have been involved in some very difficult cases in which the Crown have won and lost. The CPS often do bring charges in difficult cases.

  19. Phatboy- Yes, your right they do, but the trend is belt and braces and a lot more cautious than things used to be. Too general a comment- apologies all round

  20. Worrying that according to press reports, the Government might backtrack, giving anonymity only until charged.

  21. bowstreetrunner, the trend may well be for a belt and braces approach to prosecuting, but that isn't a bad thing. If you go in with the bare minimum necessary to bring a case you are far more likely to lose it than if you go in with the maximum amount of evidence.

    Did a trial last year, theft from employer. Prosecution wasn't properly prepared by either the advocate or the police officer. Result, after three days of Crown Court time the jury acquitted in under 10-minutes.

    Trial the other day where proseuctoin didn't draft the charges properly. Case was almost thrown out at half time - only saved by the judge allowing the indictment to be re-drafted after the conclusion of the Crown's case.

    Rape allegation at the end of last year, police didn't manage to get the forensics done properly. Result, plea on day of trial to sexual touching.

    Allegation of failing to provide a specimen of breath. Inspector failed to make proper notes of conversation with other people who told him that D wasn't driving before he made request for the specimen. Result, case dismissed.

    Burglary trial at Crown Court. Prosecutor hadn't bothered to prepare properly. Result jury thought he was a bit of a joke and acquitted D in 20 minutes.

    D accused of using a fake insurance certificate to obtain road tax. PC decided to pop round his house to ask a few off the record questions of him and his wife post charge. Result, case dismissed at half time, complaint about officer made by DJ and PC left court in tears.

    I'm pretty sure I could sit here for the rest of the day writing about other little errors where the belt and braces approach hasn't been followed and the Crown have lost a case they probably should have won.

    The point for me, is that unless you have gathered all of the evidence then you cannot say you are ready for trial.

    Sorry, maybe this has turned into a rant I never intended.

  22. Sociologists using random sample surveys concerning crime victimization and reporting came up with the statistic that most rapes go unreported. Some of them work for the US Department of Justice, and you can read their work here: And believe it or not, the DOJ is not known for its radical feminism.

    The motivation for false reporting of a rape is, according to US Federal Bureau of Investigation analysts, one of three things: a) revenge b) attention-getting c) concealing consensual sex when confronted by a parent or partner. None of those motivations would apply to anonymous respondents to a survey.

    I hope you posted your questions because you care but lack information, and not because you have misogynistic opinions about women and want them confirmed. If you want to learn more, this is a useful book: Robert R. Hazelwood and Ann Burgess eds., Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation: A Multidisciplinary Approach (CRC Press, 2008).

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