Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Perception and Reality Collide in the UK Regarding Rape Prosecutions

In a recent post found at The News Hub, Sarah Cottingham laments the tendency for British prosecutors to refuse to take tough cases, which leads to the second order effect of actual victims of sexual assault not coming forward with their claims.  She discusses the horrors of a judge saying that rape statistics would improve when "women would stop getting so drunk," how a barrister stated, "It would be useful if they could sit down without showing their knickers," and the adverse effect statements such as these has on victims reporting sexual offenses. 

Because victims are so fragile, these statements prevent 80% of them from reporting sexual assault offenses out of fear that they will be asked difficult questions.  I must agree that advising women to not drink so much would more effectively prevent alcohol facilitated rape, than trying to train a sexual predator not to take advantage of a woman who was passed out due to alcohol.  As a former prosecutor, if a victim came to Court wearing an outfit that caused her panties to show when she sat down, I would probably advise her to wear something more conservative because I would want her to obtain justice if I truly believed that she was raped.  I often find it comical when writers attribute that a woman who serves in the military or  who can drink half her weight in liquor would close up, not cooperate, or not report because a prosecutor might have said something like this to them.

And,  what about the 20% who muster the courage to report?  Well only 56.9% of the cases actually tried result in a conviction.  And, the cases being referred to trial have dropped by 20% in some areas to over 50% in other areas due to evidentiary and public interest requirements:

Despite a 3% rise in reporting, in 2012-13 rape cases referred to the [Crown Prosecution Service] CPS fell by a third and the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt admitted, ‘There is still far too much variation in the way that forces move a complaint of rape through the system.’
One issue stemmed from the CPS itself. They provide a code for police and prosecutors explaining the evidential and public interest tests that should be satisfied before a case can continue its journey to trial.
The CPS changed the wording of the code and in 2014 eleven police forces said that when using the newly worded code, less cases were referred onwards.
So, Ms. Cottingham's theory is that cases that should be tried are not making it through the system in the UK based on these statistics and code for accessing the viability of cases.  I wonder if she has taken the time to look through the charging memorandums of each and every cases that was reported and not referred to trial to understand the reasons why the Crown Prosecution Service declined prosecution. I would be surprised if she has. 
Well, here is a anecdotal case from the UK yesterday, which makes me question her opinion.  It appears that the accuser continued to have sex with a man she was "in awe of" and sent racy texts discussing him spanking her after he allegedly raped her one night when she was "crazy drunk."  The CPS was really trying hard on this case because they found another female to accuse him of a previously unreported sexual assault from 2014.  He was acquitted of both charges. 
After the full acquittal, the CPS issued this statement:  “It was decided that there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. We respect the court’s decision.”  I would imagine this analysis was based on the fact that they found two women to falsely accuse the accused in this case.
And, my point is simply this:  If this case made it all the way to a jury for a verdict based on the CPS's opinion that the facts of the case presented a realistic prospect for conviction, then I shudder to think what the facts are for the cases that are not being referred by the Crown Prosecution Service.  And, perhaps Sarah Cottingham should investigate the facts of the case above and reconsider her opinion that the CPS is sweeping rape allegations under the rug when they present too many evidentiary issues.