Scorpio Risen

So, let’s talk miscarriages of justice, and injustices, Mr “Justice” Bullshit

Posted on: 18 June, 2007

Some good news (in brief): Ministers defy judges on rape law reforms, which would hopefully increase the conviction rate of rape trials in Britain.

However, judges fear that this could possibly lead to “miscarriages of justice”.

The national average for rape conviction is only 5.3%.
Only 5.3% of those women in England and Wales who report their rape to the police actually see any justice.

Now, that’s what I call an injustice.

In the county where I live, the situation is a tinsy winsy bit better (8.3%), but they failed a friend I love dearly. That’s injustice.

Why, why, why would it lead to “miscarriages of justice”? That is just bullshit.

Quoth the Guardian:

But judges who will have to apply the law remain opposed, warning it could greatly increase costs, double the length of some rape trials, and possibly lead to miscarriages of justice.

“Greatly increase costs”, “double the length of some rape trials”…

I do not believe they are good enough reasons to oppose trying to see justice for more women. And that is because, they are not. There are no good reasons to oppose trying to see justice for more women. There are no good reasons to oppose trying to improve the conviction rate for rape. Anyone who does oppose is a patriarchy enabler.

These law reforms which judges oppose are:

· A power for expert witnesses to give general evidence, not about the specific case, but about how rape victims generally behave, to dispel “myths” that might affect the jury’s reactions; · An automatic right to use the alleged victim’s videotaped interview with the police in place of her main evidence at the trial; · Judges say another proposed change, allowing the jury to be told of any occasions when the woman confided in someone else about the rape before telling police is unnecessary, because the court of appeal ruled in a case last year that such reports are now admissible.

I am currently, in Sociology (Crime and Deviance module), starting a mini research project, about sociological research answering “Why is the conviction rate for rape in England and Wales so low?” I haven’t so far found any sociological research, but according to the report in the Guardian, Judges have privately doubted that the reforms would make much difference to the conviction rate. They have pointed out that the conviction rate dropped because more cases were being reported and prosecutors were going ahead with too many unwinnable cases.”

More cases being reported effectively leading to a decline in conviction rates? So…what, the Judges are suggesting that the solution should be that women remain silent about rape ordeals? What the fuck?!

Personally, I think that a lot of it is to do with attitudes towards rape…there’s a victim-blaming culture, based on myths. I don’t have the quotes from my Sociology textbook, but they were quite shocking, and all from Judges. Sure, they were from the late 70s/early 80s, but the conviction rate was higher then, yet there are Judges summing up the trials, laying the blame at women victims because, for example (‘scuse the paraphrasing, but it is from memory) “It is improper [my emphasis] for a girl to hitch-hike at night”, or, “If she didn’t want it, she should’ve kept her legs shut”, someone even used the phrase “truly asking for it”. Holy shit.

And of course, it’s not just the Judges who do not help rape conviction rates. I have already mentioned how the police failed my friend. I read in a report on ‘A question of evidence? Investigating and prosecuting rape in the 1990s’ by J Harris and S Grace in 1999 for the Home Office, a quote from a rape victim:

 “I showed them my bruises right… and do you what they said, ‘your bruises are not good enough’. I went ‘well what do you mean my bruises are not good enough, I’ve just been raped for God’s sake, you don’t talk to me like that’ – ‘your bruises ain’t good enough, you’ve got no case’”.

Injustice for another woman, yet again.

5.3%. Only 5.3%.
In Gloucestershire, it’s only 0.86%. That is disgusting. The highest percentage is in Northamptonshire, where it is still only 13.8%. I hate having to reduce this to numbers, statistics, but sometimes case studies aren’t enough for people. Anything anyone can do to try to improve conviction rates should be done. Women deserve justice.


3 Responses to "So, let’s talk miscarriages of justice, and injustices, Mr “Justice” Bullshit"

“The national average for rape conviction is only 5.3%.”
Not to mention that in the ‘States, the majority of rape victims do not report, so that’s basically more like 5.3% of the, say, minority who do report.
Also, even when rapists are convicted, most of them get paroled or have extremely short sentences, like 18 months. 😦

Aye, I am very well aware of the fact that, really, the 5.3% of convictions is really a much smaller percentage of all the rapes committed in Britain, given that 75-95% of rapes are unrecorded over here…
But I was focussing on how fucked up it is that out of the (small minority of) women who report their rapes to the police, only 5.3% see justice. Really, the number is even smaller.

Hi Amy,

I think there are quite a few reasons for the low conviction rate. One of my close friends works at a crown court and sees a lot of rape trials — very few of which end in convictions. It does seem that juries often take ther preconceptions about rape into the court — all the myths you describe above come into play. This is a controversial arguement, but I’m not at all sure trial by jury is the best way to deal with sexual assault and rape. Also, all the defense usually has to do to prevent a conviction is create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury, they might suspect he did it, but feel anxious about actually convicting. Of course the rape myths and the way victims are allowed to be treated in court comes into play here. One member of my feminist group is a lawyer and she has lawyer friends who’ve been raped and they all agree that they would never dream of taking their cases to trial so loaded is the system against them. They know the inside workings of the system. Sometimes the Police and CPS are being crap, but sometimes they have to weigh up whether a victim will be able to cope with going to trial or whether she’ll be even more traumatised by the experience and still come away without a conviction. At the moment, the system is putting power in the hands of the rapists because it does make a lot of cases all but “unwinnible.”

I think we need radical measures to deal with it, including specially trained judges, proper anonymity protections, and possibly a different system altogether from jury trial.

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