UK & World News

  • 11 January 2013, 2:22

Rape Study: Few Sex Offenders Convicted

A rape victim has told Sky News that newly compiled figures are a "sad indictment" of the way sexual assault victims are treated in England and Wales.

For the first time, a range of official figures have been brought together which reveal that despite there being up to 95,000 rapes every year - just 1,070 victims see their attacker brought to justice.

The figures show that every year around 473,000 people are the victims of a sexual offence - which  includes the most serious crimes such as rape and other offences such as flashing.

But only 54,000 sexual offences are recorded by police and only 5,620 offenders are convicted, according to the study.

Four men broke into Jill Saward's house in 1986, beat up her father and boyfriend and she was raped. Her ordeal led her to helping other victims of attacks.

She said there are "absolutely epidemic levels" of not reporting of rapes and little funding put forward in the UK.

"These figures are a very sad indictment of the state that we're living in," she told Sky News.

 Just 15% of women reported the sexual offence to the police, with the most common reasons cited for not coming forward being "embarrassing", "didn't think the police could do much to help", "too trivial" and "private matter", according to the joint study by the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and Office for National Statistics.

"There are lots of people out there who cannot face the court process," said Ms Saward.

"Or they feel they have too little evidence, or feel they have no confidence in the police, which is so sad because we've been working for so long to try and turn things around."

"Often it's too expensive to investigate, there is too little that the CPS will actually run with - there are too many factors working against the victims actually getting a positive conclusion at court.

"Also people are worried about being identified even though the law is meant to protect them.

"Or they are too embarrassed to go forward - undergo testing, undergo questioning - very, very intimate details which people will then try and destroy in the courtroom."

Anti-rape campaigner Nicola Mann, from Women Against Rape, laid the blame for the lack of convictions on police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

"The women pass through our organisation say the same thing over and over again: when they report rape, the police don't carry out proper investigations."

She said it is not true that a lot of women pull out of actually going to court.

"A lot of the time, pressure is put on them (the victims) by police to drop the case before it goes to court.

"Investigations aren't conducted thoroughly and efficiently, evidence is often lost or not gathered, witnesses aren't contacted and a lot of the time it's down to the police and the CPS as to why cases are closed - not because of women pulling out."

Ms Saward said attitudes towards sexual violence must change.

"So few people ... take sexual violence seriously. We see that in comedy, we see it in all sorts of ways," she said.

"We need to start taking sexual violence seriously - fighting back against this horrible pollutant of our society."

The CPS said the number of convictions for crimes involving violence against women and girls was rising.

"In 2007-8 the CPS prosecuted 75,000 cases involving violence against women and girls. By 2011-12 that number was 91,000," id Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said in a speech last year.

"Over the same period the number of convictions rose from 52,000 to almost 67,000.

"Proportionally this is our highest conviction rate on record for these crimes. In rape prosecutions there has been a four percentage point increase in the conviction rate in the last year alone.

"All this means 15,000 more offenders are now brought to justice in a year than just four years ago."

The new statistics come amid worldwide outrage over a gang rape and murder case in India.

Following the death of the 23-year-old victim last month, the country has been gripped by nationwide protests about how the authorities deal with sexual crimes. 

Despite the outrage, the family of a low-caste Indian gang rape victim has told Sky News they have been ignored by authorities.