Stark findings in major review of rape cases
The London Victims’ Commissioner, Claire Waxman, has today called for drastic improvements for the way rape victims are treated, after a comprehensive review into rape cases in London revealed that only three per cent of allegations result in a conviction and that the accused is known to the victim in the vast majority of cases.
The London Rape Review, conducted by Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and the University of West London, looked at 501 allegations of rape made across London in April 2016, providing the clearest picture to date of reported rape in the capital and the reasons why so few cases result in conviction.
The review found:
- 84 per cent of allegations were classified as a crime by the police
- Only six per cent of allegations reached trial, with three per cent resulting in a conviction
- 58 per cent of victims withdrew the allegation
- Seven per cent of cases were perpetrated by a stranger
- Almost three in five offences took place in a private or domestic setting, with 28 per cent of all allegations relating to domestic abuse
- The average length of time from the date of reporting to the trial outcome is 18 months
As part of her aim to transform the Criminal Justice Service, Claire has issued a series of recommendations to help ensure that victims and survivors of rape have the best possible access to services, support and justice to keep them engaged in the criminal justice process, including:
- More must be done to end the excessive intrusion into personal data through the criminal justice service, continuing the Victims’ Commissioner’s long-standing leading role against excessive disclosure
- The CPS should only request therapy notes to show the impact of the crime on the victim and not for any other purpose
- The government should change the law so that all suspects under investigation for domestic abuse, sexual assault or other crimes where there are significant safeguarding issues should only be released from police custody on bail and not released under investigation
- To reduce delays, a suggested maximum of three months for third parties to respond to the provision of material – medical records, counselling records, social services or educational records, or material relating to family court proceedings – that victims have consented to sharing
- Government to fully fund legal support to provide independent advice and legal representation – especially important for use of personal information and data
- Police and CPS to undergo trauma training and refreshed guidance to ensure the best evidence is gathered and the impact on the victim remains at a minimum
Claire Waxman, the London Victims’ Commissioner, said: “This review has shone a much-needed light on some of the common misconceptions around rape – that it is a crime committed by a predatory stranger in a dark alleyway, or that if a case doesn’t progress to court then it must have been a false allegation.
“The stark reality is that all too often rape happens in the home, committed by someone known to the victim, and that accessing justice is near-impossible.
“We must now work together to drastically improve the treatment that rape victims receive across the board, and I will be working with the Met and CPS to ensure that they undergo appropriate trauma training to aid investigation and charging decision process.
“The review has found that resources remain a real pressure for all partners involved in supporting victims of rape and I reiterate my calls on the Government to properly fund these vital services. The Mayor has stepped up with the creation of his £15m VAWG fund and I am delighted that today the next round of bidding for the fund has opened.
“But long-term investment from the Government is needed, which is why I am calling on them to ensure victims have access to fully funded legal support to ensure they are accessing fair trial, seeing as they are having their credibility routinely investigated. Government must also introduce a mandatory time limit on external authorities producing information that victims have consented to share to help tackle some of the delays.”
Chris Tuck is a survivor of non-recent abuse who first reported in 1979 and 1988, but her case was marked as No Further Action on both occasions. Chris reported again in April 2016 and waited 14 months for her case to be sent to CPS. The CPS then requested social media records two years after the crime was reported (May 2018) and Chris finally received a No Further Action letter from the CPS via the Police in November 2018, with no explanation around the decision.
Chris Tuck said: “The acute and chronic stress and anxiety caused by the delays in the process over the last three years - and currently - has had a massive negative impact on my family's mental and physical health and wellbeing. Trying to recover from childhood trauma, live a normal life, work, study, build better relationships is nigh on impossible. It’s no wonder that there are high attrition rates in victims and survivors not pursuing justice."
“The police had to wait at least six months to get access to some of our medical records and social care records. Many are still missing, however, two and a half years into our case some medical records 'appeared' dated 1988. These were crucial to our case and our own personal healing as a family."
Danielle (not her real name) was raped by a stranger who was identified eight years later by DNA evidence after raping again. Even with strong DNA evidence of two stranger rapes, the police still asked for Danielle’s school and university records, medical records and around six years of therapy notes, and whether she had the same phone.
Danielle said: “Despite the fact I was raped by a stranger who was identified many years later by DNA evidence, I was then told that in order to charge him the police would need to go through my school and university records, medical records and around six years' of therapy notes. This felt so invasive and disturbing, as if rather than assessing the evidence gathered at time of the rape, they were evaluating my character over my lifetime.
“I felt I had very little power to object to this as they warned me missing information could jeopardise the case. The extent to which I was expected to give my life over for inspection and judgement eventually led me to decide that were the case to go to trial I would withdraw from the process as I was terrified of being subjected to further scrutiny and my life experiences and private therapy notes being used to discredit me.”
Claire Waxman added: “There is hard work ahead to change the practices and policies that are disempowering victims. We still have some way to go to dispel underlying myths and stereotypes that continue to limit victims’ justice and support.”
Notes to editors
The London Rape Review can be accessed here: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/mayors-office-policing-and-crime-mopac/victims-commissioner
In February 2019, the Mayor announced an additional investment of £15 million from MOPAC to help sustain and strengthen services that support women and girls who have been the victim of violence in London. This comes on top of his VAWG Strategy, which committed to investing £10m each year in a series of programmes that deliver ongoing support for victims and survivors and tackle perpetrator behaviour. MOPAC will today publish the prospectus for tranche 4 of the Mayor’s VAWG fund, which begins the bidding process for the £6.8m funding to support VAWG services. The prospectus will be available here on 31st July https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/mayors-office-policing-and-crime-mopac/about-mayors-office-policing-and-crime-mopac/current-mopac-bidding-opportunities.
About Claire Waxman:
In June 2017 Claire Waxman was appointed by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to be London’s first independent Victims’ Commissioner. Claire brings a wealth of personal insight and expertise to the role having been the victim of a sustained stalking campaign, during which time she founded a campaign group which successfully fought for improved legislation and support for victims and survivors.
In her role as Independent Victims' Commissioner for London, Claire aims to transform the Criminal Justice Service (CJS) to enable victims and survivors access to a timely, effective, transparent and inclusive justice journey. From whether they choose to report the offence all the way through to post sentence. Claire’s mantra is that all victims and survivors of crime, no matter their status or experience, should be able to engage with a service designed to help them cope and recover.
Claire works alongside victims and survivors, amplifying their voices and promoting their interests with criminal justice partners, to ensure that they are heard and that lessons are learnt to inform and shape practices, policies and service provision.