South Yorkshire Police under spotlight over rape case convictions
South Yorkshire Police are under the spotlight, as fewer than one in four rape cases brought to court by the force result in a conviction, figures have shown.
Data, released by the Ministry of Justice, reveals that in 2017 only 23 percent of South Yorkshire Police’s prosecutions for rape were successful.
Last year the force brought 153 cases to court, and 35 resulted in convictions.
The conviction rate is lower than for other sexual offences, and it is also worse than other serious crimes such as grievous bodily harm which is 35 percent.
Across England and Wales overall, one in five rape cases are successfully prosecuted, according to the MoJ.
This data includes cases where rape is the principle or most serious offence, so incidents where the victim was killed would be counted as murder or manslaughter.
Senior lecturer in criminology at Teeside University, Dr Hannah Bows, said that while it was hard to judge without knowing the details of cases, the figures were “particularly surprising”.
“It shows something is going wrong either with charging decisions being made by the Crown Prosecution Service or what’s happening in court.
“Something is going wrong because the evidence required in rape cases to get a case brought to court is so high. Any question marks and the case is unlikely to go forward.
“That’s why it’s so frustrating when people say there are loads of false rape cases because it’s not true.”
Dr Bows is also concerned these figures will put people off from reporting rape allegations.
“It’s a pretty horrible and pretty lengthy process anyway,” she explained.
“Often the victim feels like they’re on trial. If someone said to you do you want to have your whole life exposed for around a one in four chance of success you’d probably say no.”
Dr Bows thinks there needs to be a complete reassessment of how rape cases are brought to court, as “what is happening now is clearly not working”.
The data shows that prosecutions for South Yorkshire Police are getting less successful.
In 2016, 25 percent of rape cases brought to court resulted in convictions.
The process of rape trials has been in the news after several collapsed at the turn of the year over problems with disclosure of evidence.
The trial of Liam Allan was stopped at Croydon Crown Court, after an officer had failed to find key evidence, including 57,000 messages between the alleged victim and Mr Allan.
Three other trials were halted within the next month, leading the CPS to review all rape cases that were being brought to court.
Cleveland Police currently has the highest conviction rate for rape cases in England and Wales, which is 32 percent, while in Cumbria only nine percent of cases brought to court were successful.
A CPS spokeswoman said: “We recognise that rape and serious sexual offences are some of the most complex cases prosecuted by the CPS and we have worked hard in recent years to improve how we deal with these cases.
“We have almost doubled the number of specialist prosecutors in our dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offence Units and improved the support we offer victims through criminal proceedings.
“In recognition of the unique challenges involved in prosecuting these offences and taking them to trial, the CPS is focused on building strong cases with all available evidence, including CCTV, eyewitness accounts and mobile phone evidence, and supporting victims throughout the process.”