More than 55,000 cases of rape reported to police and less than 1,500 prosecutions leads to new calls to address "crisis" in the justice system

Fewer than one in seven alleged rape victims feels confident they can obtain justice by reporting the matter to police, a survey has suggested.
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The vast majority (95%) of those who decided against reporting the matter to police said they did not do so because of the fear of being disbelieved.

The figures were based on nearly 500 women and men responding to a survey by the Victims' Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, who said the results "reveal the extent of the crisis within our justice system".

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The study is unlikely to allay current fears over the path to justice for victims following a sharp fall in rape prosecutions and convictions in England and Wales, despite an increase in reports to police.

Incidents of rape are increasingly going unreported and without conviction.Incidents of rape are increasingly going unreported and without conviction.
Incidents of rape are increasingly going unreported and without conviction.

It comes after a special Yorkshire Evening Post campaign in January on the issue which spoke to rape survivors who bravely told their story despite their attackers having never been charged.

The Yorkshire Evening Post series of articles also revealed that there had been a 25 per cent increase in reports of rape to West Yorkshire Police - yet only 4.4 per cent resulted in a charge.

Rachel Reeves MP for Leeds West raised the issue in parliament in the middle of January asking what the government was doing to ensure the criminal justice system is properly resourced and does not let down victims adding to the trauma they have already experienced.

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At the time Justice Minister Chris Philp MP said Ms Reeves was "quite right to raise this issue", which he described as "extremely serious" adding that "too few cases" were resulting in someone being charged and said "the government is taking action in this area."

However, records from the summer show there were 55,130 cases of rape reported to police, but only 2,102 prosecutions and 1,439 convictions in England and Wales in 2019-20.

But three years earlier, there had been 44,000 recorded rapes with 5,000 prosecutions and nearly 3,000 convictions.

According to the self-selecting survey of 491 rape survivors, carried out over a six-week period in the summer, just five per cent said they strongly agreed that they could obtain justice by reporting the allegation to the police. A further nine per cent said they simply agreed and 75 per cent said they disagreed, to varying degrees.

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The survey suggested more than one quarter of alleged victims did not report their ordeal to the police and 95 per cent said concerns about not being believed were the main reason for that decision.

Nearly nine in 10 also said they did not contact people because they believed their "gender, sexuality or lifestyle" would mean the matter would not be investigated or prosecuted successfully.

Fifty-nine per cent, said they received support following the rape, but 41 per cent did not and the vast majority of respondents to the survey were female, with eight percent identifying as male.

The figures come as the Government continues its review into how rape cases are prosecuted.

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Dame Vera said: "Page after page of this report, you will see the powerful first-hand testimony of rape survivors and their experience of our criminal justice system. And it does not make comfortable reading.

"Survivors want to be treated sensitively, fairly, respectfully, to be believed, but also for criminal justice system professionals to better understand trauma, provide clear and timely information, and to offer better access to support services. And on all of these fronts, the justice system has been found wanting.

"This survey and the voices behind it reveal the extent of the crisis within our justice system."

She added: "If survivors of this deeply damaging and highly prevalent crime are to feel the state is on their side, the Government's end to end rape review must produce radical cultural transformation across the criminal justice system."

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Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England and Wales, described the survey and accompanying testimonies as "devastating to read".

She said: "Yet, heartbreakingly, none of it will come as a surprise to those of us who work in the specialist sexual violence and abuse sector.

"The fact that the overwhelming majority of those who chose not to report to the police took that decision because they didn't think they'd be believed chimes with what victims and survivors tell us at Rape Crisis Centres across England and Wales.

"The damning statistic that only 14 per cent of respondents believe it's possible for victims to get justice by reporting sexual offences to the police reflects the chronic failures of our system and the re-traumatisation it so often causes.

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"Nothing short of cultural and systemic shift will do if we are to deliver the criminal and social justice for victims and survivors of these serious crimes that they so need, want and deserve."

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Thank you

Laura Collins