It was reported last week that conviction rates for rape in the UK are higher than they’ve ever been. 63% of prosecutions in 2012/13 resulted in a conviction, which is 5% more than five years previously. Similar success is reported regarding domestic violence. This is, of course, good news. However, it’s not quite a straightforward success.
First, the ‘conviction’ rate includes all convictions resulting from the prosecution, many of which are not actually for rape (someone might, for example, be tried for rape and convicted of a lesser sexual offence). In 2010/11, the actual rate of conviction for rape was 33% out of an overall conviction rate of 58%. The same is likely to apply to the reported figure for 2012/13.
Second, as the initial linked article points out, another main complaint about the legal process concerns the proportion of reported rapes which result in a prosecution. According to this article, an annual average of 15 670 reports results in an average of 2 910 prosecutions. That’s about 19%. So even if 63% of those 2910 cases result in convictions, that’s a mere 11% of the original reported total. In other words, 89% of reported rapes don’t result in any sort of conviction. Bear in mind that the Crown Prosecution Service recently released a report (pdf) which establishes pretty comprehensively that false allegations of rape are extremely rare.
Third, yet another problem with the legal process is the fact that so many people are discouraged from reporting rape in the first place. For fairly obvious reasons, statistics on under-reporting are hard to come by or verify (one estimate attributed to the Ministry of Justice in the Independent article above is 60 000 to 95 000 — that’s quite a variation between the upper and lower limits). But it’s apparent that this is a problem, and it’s apparent that even if conviction rates continue to increase, there’s a lot more to be done to improve the legal and policing environment which results in under-reporting and under-prosecution.