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Stern review on rape reporting

15 Mar 2010

Stern Review on Rape Reporting in England and Wales.

Baroness Stern has prioritised the need for a greater focus on victim care and she concurs with Sara Payne’s recommendations in her review (‘Redefining Justice’) acknowledging that justice for victims needs to be much wider than just focusing on getting a conviction – getting support and being believed is vitally important”.
Spotlighting the importance of intelligence-led policing to avoid failures as shown in the Worboys and Reid cases is essential however, Rape Crisis remain unclear as to which recommendation focuses on challenging some of the attitudes women encounter within the Criminal Justice System. 
Statements regarding conviction and attrition rates using percentages can create confusion. Actual numbers are needed and some clarity about how conviction rates are calculated. The conviction rate is extremely low when it is taken as a proportion of rapes reported to the police that end in a successful conviction; as opposed to the proportion of convictions from those that are taken to court. 
Baroness Stern has highlighted the importance of the Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) role and Rape Crisis would press for the ISVA role to remain ‘Independent’ from the Criminal Justice System in order to respond holistically to the complex range of support and advocacy women and girls need after experiencing sexual violence.  We do acknowledge that positive changes have been implemented from the various reviews and as a result there are pockets of good policy and practice nationwide.
 The report states that only 11% of rapes come to the attention of the police, which is entirely consistent with Rape Crisis statistics; the review did not focus on the vast majority of victims who do not report the Criminal Justice System and yet are looking for support and what resources will be available to provide much needed specialised support.  
Despite this being a common sense report – it throws little light on how the recommendations within it will be implemented or how any change will be robustly monitored.  Women’s negative experiences of the criminal justice system are sadly a common reality - not a perception, these experiences have changed little over the years. There is still a long way to go to address the differences in procedure throughout the criminal justice system and, the lack of rape crisis services across the country; that women still face a postcode lottery when they try to access support. The recommendations within the Stern Review should be added to the overhaul required to address significant change needed to ensure uniformity of response nationwide for all victims.
 For a copy of the report go to