Who gets convicted if a rape is reported?

It is estimated that only 10-30% of rapes are reported to the police, while only 6% of those reported end in conviction.  Hence as a rapist, you have only about a 1.2% chance of being convicted in any particular incidence of rape.  This is really quite good odds – with a 98.8% chance of getting away scot-free, rape is practically legal.  But before we denigrate the justice system entirely, there is another clear up rate which it would seem that they are much, much better at.  A 2005 study showed that approximately 2.5% of rape allegations were possibly or probably false – extrapolating that to 2009 figures it would suggest that of the 41,000 or so reports filed in 2009 approximately 1025 are false allegations.  In the same year 61 women were prosecuted for making a rape allegation, giving a far better clear up rate of approximately 6%.  Or to put it another way, you are around 5 times more likely to be prosecuted if you make a false allegation of rape, than to be convicted if you rape someone.

It is already acknowledged that we lock up around 50% more rape victims each year than perpetrators of sexual violence, but lets look at some recent cases where women have been prosecuted after reporting rape more closely.

In January a 16 year old girl was convicted of perverting the course of justice, after she claimed to have been raped the previous summer by her then boyfriend.  He claimed that she had consented, while she maintains that she had whispered for him to stop, and had frozen from fear.  Witnesses testified to her silence.

In March, this year a 21 year old was sentenced for two years for perverting the course of justice.  She had told her boyfriend that her father had raped her the night before, looking to stir up trouble between them.  The boyfriend called the police.  Over the course of the next 6 months she became more and more unco-operative with the inquiry until eventually she confessed that she had made the allegation up, whereupon an inquiry into the false allegation – initially reported to the police by her boyfriend – began.

In May, a 17 year old who was acknowledged by the judge in his summing up to be vulnerable and to have been taken advantage of, in a case with elements which were “sordid, sad and depressing” was convicted of perverting the course of justice.  She had initially contacted the police to say that she *thought* she had been raped, however the investigation was dropped when one of the accused had a recording of her consent on his mobile phone.  In addition to the one year suspended gaol sentence, she also received an 18 month mental health treatment order.

In June, a 19 year old was sentenced to two years for perverting the course of justice, after having made up a rape with an unknown assailant.  In a mess with money, studies and generally in a bad way, she was encouraged to phone the police by her mother after she told her she had been followed home, making up a rape allegation when the police arrived, however confessed to the deception at a second interview.

These four cases – involving a 15 year old who maintains that she did not consent, and where the only evidence of consent was a lack of non-consent; a 21 year old who told lies to her boyfriend, which later span out of control; a 17 year old who had been taken advantage of and a 19 year old in a bad place in her life who concocted a tale, recanting at the next opportunity – were widely reported in the press, and held up as evidence of womens’ deceitful use of rape allegations.

There are fundamental differences between a sexual assault and a false allegation.  In the case of a sexual assault there is an actual violation of one person from another.  In the case of a false allegation, there is no such violation except reputationally.  In each case the young woman was prosecuted for wasting police time and/or perverting the course of justice – a crime against the state rather than a person

Although the responsibility of reputational damage of a false allegation of rape rests with the woman, the potential real harm caused – that of deprivation of liberty – is done by the state.  In two of the cases above, it is alleged that the victim claimed falsely that she did not consent, yet in one, the acknowledged vulnerability of the young woman must bring into question how valid that notional consent actually was, suggesting miscommunication rather than maliciousness, while in the other there are undoubtably questions over how valid the silence of a 15 year old girl is as an indicator of consent.  In the other two cases, no sexual activity took place, and in one of those no named assailant, suggesting more care should be taken with forensic evidence prior to the arrest of a suspect.

Worrying though these cases are, there are more shocking incidences of women being found guilty of perverting the course of justice, where there are serious questions to be asked about the investigation.

One of the longest sentences ever given for a false allegation of rape was last year to Layla Ibraham.  The evidence of her guilt was that she owned scissors that she claimed had been used in the attack and that she had argued with her boyfriend earlier that evening.  Despite injuries to her head, breasts, face and vagina, no history of mental disturbance and forensic evidence, which was later lost during the investigation, it was concluded that she had made the whole thing up and sentenced to three years.

Just a few months earlier Gail Sherwood was sentenced to two years for perverting the course of justice.  Despite multiple botches in the investigation, injuries consistant with the attacks, no previous criminal record or mental health issues it was considered that – like Layla – she was making the whole thing up.  Over 60 of her friends wrote to the judge describing it as a “total miscarriage of justice”

Shocked yet?  Worse to come.

In November last year, a woman was convicted of perverting the course of justice, not because the police or CPS believed that she was lying about being raped, but because she had been raped.  Trapped in an abusive marriage and under pressure from her husband’s family she had falsely retracted her claims.  She was sentenced to eight months.  After this sentence was passed, Dyfed-Powys police reassured victims…

I would like to reassure the public that Dyfed-Powys Police, in line with national requirements, treat, and will continue to treat, all allegations of sexual assaults seriously; this involves the use of specially trained officers to support victims during what is a traumatic experience.  I would encourage victims of sexual assaults to contact the police and not suffer in silence.

In the year to August 2011, 30 women were gaoled after going to the police with an allegation of rape.  Unlike the six footballers who gangraped a twelve year old.  Their initial 2 year sentence was reduced on appeal to a one year suspended sentence earlier this year.

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8 comments
Ben
Ben

ummm....no Mhairi, she was rightly sentenced to 2 years. At the link it said that three other men were questioned during a major investigation involving forensic examinations and door-to-door inquiries. This could have led to innocent men being charged and imprisoned just because a stupid girl was failing university. And #Merlinscot how does the biased, loaded laguage of 'the innocentist herd' answer my concerns for real justice? I have no problems with real rapists being charged and convicted...just not on the Orwellian principle of guilty until proven innocent. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

Only there was no named assailant. An innocent man was held for a day and three others were questioned based on a description, and it was proved to be a non-crime through forensic evidence. If I reported my car broken into to falsely claim insurance and gave a description of the robber the exact same scenario might well have arisen, yet there would be no such vitriol towards a false accuser of robbery. Contrast the two years that she received, with the one year suspended sentence of six men who gang raped a child. False accusations are very rare, they are even rarer in cases where the assailant is named. In contrast, rape is common, rarely reported because the process is so onerous on the victim and the chances of a successful prosecution so slim.

Merlinscot
Merlinscot

You should be ashamed of yourself Ben, because if you had taken some time to read my first post, then to do some research and got your facts straight, you should understand that you should be ashamed about what you posted here and probably elsewhere. You, as many who are part of the 'innocentist' herd, are not only causing severe damage to the rape victims all over the world with your attitude (I am a survivor of rape, DV, and other awful abuses, so I am deeply concerned after reading these comments) but you are also hindering the justice system because police, most of the times, is very cautious in believing the victims not to anger that part of society who keeps repeating the false allegations myths over and over again. I live in Scotland, so I have no knowledge of American statistics. Here 3% of rapists are convicted, 6% is the estimated percentage rate of false allegations, 91% is the percentage rate of the ones "who got away with it". So in trying to make your arguments to defend that 7%, you also help the process to let the other 91% to get away with it. Justice system is not perfect but they can't stop people lying about theft, rape, murder, etc etc. They will always be people who like to make up things out of the blue. Unfortunately, the innocentist herd keeps damaging with their ideas hundreds of women/children/men who are raped and abused every year. Concerning my personal experience, my ex wasn't ruined by the report at all. Of course, his family and close friends kept thinking he was innocent and he is probably whining somewhere online that someone had falsely accused him to be a rapist and an abuser. Well, I was the third person who had been abused and raped by him but I was the only one reporting him. Why? Because previous girlfriends feared him. I soon understood that after the report my life was in danger too, because they had weapons at home and it is difficult to keep at bay resentment and then vengeance. I had dared to report him. Police didn't care for that at all and at this moment, I already changed my address twice and even my name. Whose life was ruined by the report? Come again? So bear in mind that it is ok to defend people who are innocent but concerning rape cases, you also defend the 91% of rapists who are laughing behind my back, yours and everybody else's. And given that many of them are serial rapists... you do the math. Food for thought, Ben.

Mhairi McAlpine
Mhairi McAlpine

She didnt accuse anyone. If you read it carefull it was an "unknown assailant". Whose life was ruined in this?

Merlinscot
Merlinscot

Mhairi, with the innocentist herd you are wasting your time. It makes them feel better to believe that 90% of rapists are innocent.. Until society will stop acting as ostrichs, putting their heads into the sand in order not to see, justice system will keep being defenseless and rape victims won't have any justice. Any time we find a post reporting the false allegations myth we should answer "well come back when you've been raped or someone you know has been". You'll see how much difference that makes. Personal experience.

Ben
Ben

What a load of hypocritical hyperbolic rubbish! Since when was a '19 year old in a bad place in her life who concocted a tale, recanting at the next opportunity' any justification for ruining a man's life and reputation by falsely accusing him of rape? You people don't appear to have any concept of evidence, due process, innocent until proven guilty, etc. I can only hope that you are never in a position of authority or power over anyone - man or woman.

MerlinScot
MerlinScot

It's all true. Last month, it took 2 days to the procurator fiscal to decide that my ex boyfriend hadn't raped me 4 times in a row. It's taking weeks to him to decide if I'll get prosecuted because in his opinion I wasted police time and energy. True is, I didn't recant my statement even when detained in a cell and I never will, that was the truth and I'll stand by it. But I'm clearly regretting I ever reported my ex. I only did it for civic duty (I wouldn't have gained anything even if he was jailed, why did someone think I was making it up?), and I could be gaoled... trying to "help" the state, not to "lie" to it. This system discourages rape victims to report and at this point.. I'd discourage them too. Given the difficulty to find evidence, many police officers assigned to rape cases prefer the easiest way and they end up blaming everything on the victim at the end of all their questioning. I was told I had lied because I could remember the dates of my rapes. I think the justice system touched the bottom. Merl

admin
admin

Sorry to hear that Merl - hope you're ok(ish). If you're up for it, it might be worth contacting a journalist - this kind of shit is getting more and more common. The justice system isn't set up to protect women from rape, or prosecute perpetrators, but to remind women to behave in state sanctioned ways or they are liable to get fucked at will, now increasingly if they object to getting fucked at will, state will gaol them.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 4) If the victim didn’t report the rape immediately and did it later, she/he must have another reason to report it (vengeance against the person, jealousy, dislike, etc) – false. Most people feel ashamed to have been raped and abused and a common first reaction is to fake nothing happened at all. You can’t report a crime that you want to ignore yourself. Then victims feel ashamed, they’re afraid to be taken as liars, they fear they’ll be isolated (absolutely true!), they’ll be treated as they contracted a contagious disease and a lot more. There are a number of reasons why an abused and raped woman decide not to report. Given the percentage of conviction and what you’ve to get through if you report to the police, I should say they’re right in not reporting. It’s really NOT worth it (http://www.2ndcouncilhouse.co.uk/blog/2011/11/09/who-gets-convicted-if-a-rape-is-reported/) [...]

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