A Question Of Conviction
Yesterday’s Graun had a piece by Amanda Bancroft, aka @_millymoo, about conviction rates in rape cases. She wrote:
‘The conviction rate for rape is 58%. That bears repeating. The conviction rate for rape, is 58%. The conviction rate for reportable crimes of all types is 57%. I know you will have heard the figure of 6%. Everyone has. That figure is actually an attrition rate, not a conviction rate, and even as an attrition rate it is wrong – the attrition rate for rape is in the region of 12%.
Why is this important? Because the rhetoric of rape, which largely propounds myths, puts survivors off reporting the crimes committed against them, making them perceive that the system designed to assist them is actually wholly against them.
Last week, Mumsnet released a survey of its users as part of its We Believe You rape awareness campaign. Sixty-eight per cent of respondents said low conviction rates would make them hesitate to report a rape due to low conviction rates – clearly they had heard the 6% figure too.
It isn’t just conviction and attrition rates that are an issue and which impact on rape reporting. The whole discourse about rape is mired in myths and half-truths, which leads survivors to believe the system is against them and that they are unlikely to be believed.’
‘Bancroft has a good point in this piece – victims of rape are scared of going to the police for many reasons, and we should be doing whatever’s in our capacity to stop this happening. However, that shouldn’t include giving people false hope and potentially putting them in danger in order to raise the number of reports.
My concern with Bancroft’s repeated assertion that ‘the conviction rate for rape is 58%’ is that firstly, it’s wrong. The conviction rate at a trial for <i>any crime</i> when the defendant is charged with rape is 58%. The conviction rate at a trial for rape is 33%.
Secondly, I think it’s a potentially dangerous thing to say. If someone’s in an abusive relationship and is raped, telling them they’ll have a 58% chance to get away if they go to the police could have devastating ramifications if they’re part of the 66% for whom the case doesn’t go to court. Around 85% of victims know their attacker and could therefore be placed in some bad situation (source: http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32306),
whether this is the chance of repeated rape, intimate partner violence or even just ostracision from a social group or family.
In an ideal world, I’d like to see the information laid out properly – If you report your rape to the police, there’s a 66% chance no prosecution will take place. If a prosecution does take place, there’s a 66% chance they won’t be convicted for rape, and a 42% chance they won’t be convicted at all. This would allow people to make an informed choice about what is the best route for them to take. If the statistics from the Ministry of Justice look shit, it’s probably because they are shit. The best way to get more victims to go to the police would be to improve them, not present them in a rose-tinted light.’
I think they both make good points. I wonder if now Bancroft has busted the 6% myth about rape convictions, if the Guardian will stop printing that statistic as fact.
I also wonder how these stats relate to women who are accused of sexual assault. The precise crime of ‘rape’ in the UK can only be committed by someone with a penis. But it is not clear to me if these figures could include women who are accused of ‘rape’ by members of the public, but who have their cases heard as ‘sexual assault’. And how many men do not report sexual assault?