Azara Blog: Rape convictions are allegedly too low

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Date published: 2007/01/31

The BBC says:

Police and prosecutors are failing to implement measures to boost the rape conviction rate, watchdogs have warned.

The police and the Crown Prosecution Service watchdogs said more effort should be made to build stronger cases.

Their report says too many rape claims in England and Wales are wrongly dismissed as unfounded.

Only 5% of reported rapes end in a conviction. The director of public prosecutions says he is "determined" to improve the way rape cases are handled.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Mike O'Brien said the government was considering a change in the law in an effort to raise the number of convictions.

He said: "Most people who are victims of rape know their perpetrator and the issue is therefore consent. What we need to do is make sure that the issue of consent goes before a jury."

It is slightly bizarre that the issue being touted is the need to increase the conviction rate. What they should really want is guilty people to be found guilty and innocent people to be found innocent. What they should also want is for the State to have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that someone is guilty. Unfortunately, they just seem to want to increase the conviction rate.

One of the major problems here does seem to be the question of consent. Apparently the government is thinking of changing the law so that if the woman is drunk then almost by definition any sex is rape. If the woman is so drunk that she cannot reason (which is very, very drunk, and in particular is way beyond what the police would consider to be drunk when you are driving), and if also the man is not similarly drunk, then this could be considered to be plausible. But what is almost certainly likely to happen (given that the sole need seems to be to increase the conviction rate) is that if the woman says she was drunk (beyond reason?) (and how will that be determined?) (and ignoring what condition the man was in?) then that is that.

No doubt a lot more guilty men will go to prison, but inevitably so won't a lot more innocent ones. One thing the Blair government has been consistent about is that they do not care how many innocent people go to prison, as long as more guilty ones do.

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