Just 3% Of Rape Allegations In London Result In Conviction. This New Study Suggests Why

Poor access to counselling and support leads women to withdraw allegations, says victim's commissioner.
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A lack of support and difficulty accessing counselling are some of the primary reasons behind the withdrawal of rape allegations, according to the London victim’s commissioner.

Claire Waxman – the first person to be appointed to the role by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in June 2017 – said delays in cases getting to trial were also another huge factor in people deciding to drop their case at a later date.

According to a new study of the 501 people in London who reported being raped to police in April 2016, 58% then went on to withdraw their allegation.

Only 6% of the cases went to trial and just 3% resulted in a conviction. The study found the average length of time from the date of reporting to the trial outcome was 18 months.

“If victims are not accessing counselling and then it is taking months on end, then you’re forcing people to stay in trauma, which has huge ramifications for people’s mental health,” Waxman told the BBC.

“The system is still deeply entrenched in myths and stereotypes, a victim almost has to prove they’re not lying.”

“Police and those working for the CPS should have mandatory trauma training.”

- Claire Waxman

The London Rape Review was a joint project between the mayor’s office for police and crime and the University of West London.

It recommended other issues that needed to be addressed to improve conviction rates, including trauma training for police and those working for the CPS to ensure the best evidence is gathered and victim impact minimised.

It says the government should also have to fully fund independent advice and legal representation for accusers. It also raised the issue of the CPS accessing victim’s therapy notes – which have previously been used as evidence against victims in trials. Such documents should only be used to show the severity of impact on a victim rather than used against them as evidence, it recommended.

There has also been controversy over “digital processing notices”, in which police can request to download the contents of victims’ mobile phones. These were rolled out across police forces in England and Wales in April.

The report also recommends all suspects under investigation for sexual assault or other crimes with significant safeguarding issues should be released from police custody on bail only.

The government said it was working to improve support for victims.

“Instilling trust and confidence in the criminal justice system starts with police interaction.”

- Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons

Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons said the force also welcomed the publication of the research, to which it had contributed.

“We know that there is more we can do with partners in the criminal justice system to improve the experience for victims who show great bravery in reporting offences committed against them to police, and bringing more offenders to justice,” he said.

“Instilling trust and confidence in the criminal justice system starts with police interaction.”

Simmons said the Met will review the report and the recommendations made to improve enforcement and make the process as comfortable for victims as possible.

Last week analysis of Home Office Statistics by the Guardian found only one in 65 rape cases reported to the police across England and Wales resulted in suspects being summonsed or charged,

The End Violence Against Women Coalition has written to Boris Johnson over the declining number of prosecutions, saying the figures amounted to a “decriminalisation of this extremely harmful crime”.

In 2011, Waxman won a landmark case to overturn the decision not to prosecute her stalker and in 2013 founded the campaign group Voice4Victims to work for improved legislation for victims of crime.