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Postcode lottery continues

10 Jun 2009

Postcode lottery for victims of rape continues with a growing gap in conviction rates between police force areas

Rape conviction rate figures for 2007 demonstrate a growing gap between police force areas - women who report rape are more than eleven times more likely to secure a conviction for rape in some areas than others:

  • In Cleveland almost one in five reported rapes led to a conviction for rape
  • In Dorset, less than one in sixty women who report rape secured a conviction for rape.

The rape conviction rates between 2006 and 2007 fell in 16 out of 42 police force areas. Some police force areas have demonstrated that improvement is possible - Cleveland continued to improve since 2004: 7.75% (2004); 13.2% (2006); and 18.1% (2007). However, in many forces performance remains poor - 12 police force areas, more than one in four, had a rape conviction rate of less than five percent in 2007.

The Fawcett Society has obtained the latest available figures on rape conviction rates from the Government which demonstrate that the postcode lottery for victims of rape continues. Fawcett has produced a map of England and Wales plotting the changes in the rape conviction rates since 2006. Click here to download the map

Katherine Rake, Director of the Fawcett Society commented:
“The appalling figures in most police force areas reveal that women continue to face a postcode lottery when reporting rape to the police. Rape should be treated with the same professionalism as other crimes with consistency in initial response to victims and investigation across police areas. Cooperation between the police and the CPS is also crucial if the prosecution of rape cases is to improve.”

“It is a national scandal that thousands of victims have no access to justice, and frequently face a culture of disbelief and delayed responses which may lead to the loss of vital evidence. There is also patchy provision of support services for women who have experienced rape across England and Wales, particularly in rural areas. Women deserve support, safety and justice from the criminal justice system and this is not being delivered.”

What needs to change?
• The Government needs to drive cultural change within the criminal justice system, to ensure that rape is given a high priority by the CPS and every police force in the country.
• Specific training aimed at frontline staff within the police and the CPS to change attitudes towards rape, and improve initial responses to women and early evidence collection must be rolled out in every police force area.
• Joint targets for the CPS and the police should be developed to incentivise them to work together and develop a national strategy towards rape and other serious sexual violence offences.
• Public attitudes towards rape, which are then reflected in the criminal justice system, urgently need to change. We are calling on the Government to fund a national awareness-raising campaign on rape and sexual violence to target these unacceptable attitudes.
• The Government must also commit to long term funding for violence against women service provision, including a national network of rape crisis centres and a 24 hour helpline.
• The Violence against Women strategy being driven by the Home Office offers an opportunity for a cross-government integrated and strategic approach to ending the injustices faced by rape victims. This opportunity must not be missed.