Reports Of Rape Double

The number of men accused of rape in Northern Ireland has more than doubled in just two years, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.

However, shock new figures also show that over three-quarters of those accused last year were not prosecuted due to a lack of evidence.

The statistics have prompted an urgent call for a “complete overhaul” of how the judicial system in Northern Ireland deals with rape.

Eileen Calder, director of the Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre, said the news came as “no surprise”. She demanded a change in the way rape victims are dealt with in court.

She said: “Rape is supposed to be the second most serious crime on the statutory books yet in some cases it is treated with the same level of seriousness as someone who has dropped a bit of litter on the street.

“We know far, far more women that these Government figures suggest have been the victims of rape. Only around 20% of women that are raped actually report it to police so what the courts deal with is only a very tiny tip of the iceberg.

“The criteria for prosecution means a lot of rapists go unpunished and even when the cases do get to court, there is very often plea bargaining where a rape charge is reduced to one of attempted rape or indecent assault.

” Women know how they are going to be treated by the judicial system and even if rapists are convicted, they only do half the sentence because of remission.”

The statistics were released in Westminster in reply to a series of questions from the Upper Bann MP David Simpson.

In reply to one question, NIO Minister Paul Goggins revealed that the number of people reported for rape in 2004 was 83 – compared to 172 people last year.

Of the 83 people reported for rape in 2004, 35% of them – or 29 people – were not prosecuted.

Two years later, 136 of the 172 people reported for rape – a total of 79% – did not face prosecution.

Mr Goggins told the House of Commons the Government was “committed to improving the rates of successful prosecution in rape cases”.

He added: “We have made significant progress towards establishing a sexual assault centre in Northern Ireland and are working in partnership with colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Services, the PSNI, the medical profession and the voluntary sector to develop an appropriate range of services.

“In addition, the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service have recently begun to analyse a number of rape investigations, in order that they continue to develop models of best investigative practice.

“In particular, attention will focus upon case building and the significant number of cases that currently do not make the threshold for prosecution.”