Convictions For Rape A Postcode Lottery, Says Equality Group

Rape victims face a “postcode lottery” when it comes to getting their attackers punished, with women in some areas almost five times more likely to secure convictions than in others, campaigners said yesterday.

The Fawcett Society, the women’s equality group, said official figures revealed “huge deficiencies in police responses to rape” in many parts of the UK.

Overall, the average conviction rate edged up in the two years to 2006, when 6.1% of reported crimes ended in convictions, compared with 5.3% in 2004.

But the society said the conviction rate had got worse in 18 out of 43 police areas. For example, in Bedfordshire the conviction rate four years ago was 8.3% but it had dropped to 3.2%. Northamptonshire had the biggest fall in conviction rate – 6.6 percentage points – from 13.8% to 7.2%. The figures showed that fewer than one in 30 women who reported a rape in Leicestershire saw a conviction, while in Cleveland the figure was far higher, at about one in seven.

“These disturbing figures reveal that women face a postcode lottery when reporting rape to the police,” said Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society. “It is entirely unacceptable that the standard of service rape victims receive is dependent on where they live.

“Even more worryingly, in many areas of the country the conviction rate has fallen dramatically since 2004. The government must act now to ensure that all women who experience this awful crime receive a sensitive and effective service from police.”

She added that in many cases women still faced a “culture of disbelief” and delayed responses leading to the loss of vital evidence.

“The government needs to drive cultural change within the criminal justice system, to ensure that rape is given a high priority by every police force in the country and to invest in a national network of rape crisis centres,” Rake said.

The society produced a map based on statistics retrieved from court proceedings, data from the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office’s recorded crime figures and population numbers from the Office for National Statistics.

One of the best-performing forces compared with the 2004 figures was Gloucestershire, where the conviction rate rose by 6.57 percentage points. Jeff Brooks, a detective superintendent with Gloucestershire police, said: “We are very encouraged to see that Gloucestershire is the area where the greatest improvements have been made in tackling rape.

“After the Fawcett Society published the 2004 figures, which showed that only 0.8% of rapes reported in Gloucestershire achieved a conviction, we overhauled our strategy on sexual violence.

“We have begun to turn things around by working to collect better evidence early on in rape cases and supporting victims effectively through the criminal justice process.”