A report by the Rape Monitoring Group, published by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, reveals a dramatic fall in the percentage of reported rapes that result in charges in England and Wales. The report also shows increases in the total number of reported rape cases, including rapes of children.
In 2014-2015, just 12% of reported rapes resulted in charges, down sharply from 17% for the previous year. However, the number of reported rapes is increasing. There were 19,316 reported rapes against adults this year compared to 9,856 four years ago. The number of reported rapes against children has also increased, with 9,949 this year compared to 6,035 in 2010-11.
The report also revealed significant regional variation between police forces. Nottinghamshire police only charged 6% of people who were reported for rape of adults whereas Greater Manchester police charged 18% of people reported for rape of adults. In Humberside, 35% of child rape cases resulted in criminal proceedings.
Moreover, the report highlighted the poor conviction rate in rape cases. In 2014, 1,164 people were convicted of rape. That represents just over 30% of those charged with rape and only 4% of those reported for rape.
Speaking to the Justice Gap in response to the report, Rights of Women director Emma Scott criticized ‘poor investigation and negative attitudes to victims’ experiences’ and called for improvements throughout the criminal justice system, observing ‘that women continue to experience disbelief and stereotyping as victims […] from police officers, prosecutors, judges and juries’.
Kate Russell of Rape Crisis commended the increased number of reported rapes as a ‘steady improvement in the way police record sexual offences’, but noted that sexual offences were ‘still hugely under-reported in comparison to other crimes’.
Russell also highlighted the financial challenges facing organizations supporting victims of sexual violence. For example, only half of Rape Crisis’ specialist support and advocacy services are funded beyond March 2016 and Eaves, a charity that provided support to women in crisis, was forced to close at the end of October.
Ollie Persey is a legal fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, where he works on issues concerning criminal justice, international human rights law, and mental health