Only 3% of rape allegations in London leading to a conviction, study finds

Just 3% of rape allegations in London lead to a conviction, prompting the capital’s Victims’ Commissioner to urge drastic improvements in the way victims are treated.

Claire Waxman’s call comes after the London Rape Review – which looked at 501 allegations of rape made across London in April 2016 – found that 6% of accusations made it to trial, 3% ended in a conviction and 58% of victims withdrew their allegation.

A stranger carried out the alleged attack in 7% of the cases, almost three in five offences took place in a private or domestic setting and 28% of all allegations related to domestic abuse, according to the study.

It took an average of 18 months from the time the offence was reported until the end of the trial, according to the research carried out by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the University of West London.

In contrast to common beliefs that rapes are committed by predatory strangers in dark alleyways, the study shows “the stark reality is that all too often rape happens in the home, committed by someone known to the victim, and that accessing justice is near-impossible”, Ms Waxman said.

She called for long-term Government investment and fully-funded legal support for victims to ensure they are accessing fair trials, as many find that their own credibility is being routinely investigated.

There should also be a mandatory three-month time limit for responses from external authorities to material – such as medical, counselling, social services or educational records – which victims have agreed to share to help tackle some of the delays, she added.

Ms Waxman (pictured), who has been a stalking victim and a campaigner for support for survivors, wants the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to undergo appropriate trauma training to help with the investigation and charging decisions process as part of a package of proposals to try and “drastically improve the treatment that rape victims receive across the board”.

It was also felt that more must be done to end excessive intrusion into personal data, and the CPS should only request therapy notes to show the impact of the crime on the victim and not for any other reason.

The study pointed to the experience of one woman who claimed she was attacked by a stranger who was identified eight years later by DNA evidence after he carried out another rape.

Even with strong DNA evidence of two stranger rapes, the police still asked for her school and university records, medical records, around six years of therapy notes, and whether she had the same phone.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said: “This felt so invasive and disturbing, as if rather than assessing the evidence gathered at the time of the rape, they were evaluating my character over my lifetime.

“I felt I had very little power to object to this as they warned me missing information could jeopardise the case.

“The extent to which I was expected to give my life over for inspection and judgment eventually led me to decide that were the case to go to trial, I would withdraw from the process as I was terrified of being subjected to further scrutiny and my life experiences and private therapy notes being used to discredit me.”

Other recommendations include a call for a change in the law so that all suspects under investigation for domestic abuse, sexual assault or other crimes where there are significant safeguarding issues should only be released from police custody on bail, and not released under investigation.

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