Sexual Crime Figures Soar

Five people are victims of sexual crime each day in the North of Ireland, Daily Ireland can reveal. PSNI figures show that between April 2005 and March 2006 1,711 people claimed to be victims of sexual crime. A staggering 356 people – almost one every day – claimed they were raped during the same period. Of that number just 64 prosecutions were taken. Last night the interim director of a leading sex abuse support agency Nexus Institute, Gar McAtamney, demanded tougher action be taken to improve prosecution rates for sexual offenses.

“Just 64 people were charged with rape. I would ask what is being done to increase the prosecution rate for sexual offences in Northern Ireland. I would like to know what minister David Hanson is doing to improve these figures. The big question is the prosecution rate for rape, it’s about six per cent, why is it so low. What is he doing to increase that rate. At the moment I don’t see them doing anything.

Mr McAtamney says the Northern Ireland Regional Sexual Violence Strategy, which is intended to offer a framework for a coordinated response to the needs of sex crime victims, needs to be published as a matter of urgency.

“We need a sexual assault referral centre where the police, medical staff and and councillors are all under the one roof, that’s why we are pushing for this strategy. There have been 700 rape victims since this work began and where is the strategy? Things are not going to change until they take the next step. It will be at least another full year before the strategy is implemented and another 365 rape victims, another 1,711 victims of sexual violence.”

The support worker says the PSNI figures offer just a glimpse of the full extent of sexual crime. “These figures are just the tip of the ice berg. The British crime survey says that only 15 per cent of rapes come to the attention of police. We know there’s massive under reporting and this is the sort of crime that victims don’t generally talk about.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Northern Ireland Office said: “Sexual violence involves a wide range of very complex issues for victims, survivors and perpetrators, as well as for the criminal justice, health and other support service providers. Other key issues relating to community safety, prevention, education and impact on the benefits and other social support systems must be considered.

“A very considerable amount of work and time has been required for research and in providing informed input for and developing a draft sexual abuse strategy which will provide better outcomes for victims and survivors through better integrated and more complementary services. This work is ongoing and we expect a draft strategy to be issued for consultation by the end of the summer and the strategy to be published by April 2007. Services for victims of sexual abuse continue to be provided by the appropriate statutory bodies and by a range of voluntary organisations.”