Rape and “no crimes”: this is a fucking travesty

Trigger warning for discussion of rape

A while back, I wrote about how for many women, not reporting a rape to the police can seem like the best possible option. Information which has arisen in the last week has changed nothing in this thesis: if anything, it is worse than I had previously thought.

A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorates of the Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service on rape investigations has found some pretty worrying facts, but also some good news. More survivors feel able to report rapes to the police, and the police response has improved. On the other hand, police are failing to identify patterns of repeat offences and were using intelligence poorly.

Most worrying of all, though, is the incidence of “no crimes”. According to guidelines, a no crime should be:

Where following the report of an incident, which has subsequently been recorded as a crime, additional verifiable information is available which determines that no notifiable crime has been committed.

The two crucial constructs here are that the evidence the crime did not happen can be proven, and that whatever happened was not a crime. In rape cases, this sounds like it might be pretty difficult to prove, yet the report found that 12% of reported rapes were consigned to the no crime pile. These statistics often involve women withdrawing their complaint, which can be seen in this FOI request to South Yorkshire Police. There are obvious problems with this approach, and these are so apparent that even the police have noticed this:

In reality a rape that has been reported and then recorded as a crime, should only be “no crimed” if for example, the victim states that the crime did not occur. Even in these circumstances it should be anticipated that there would be further verifiable information available to support this, because our experience shows that victims may withdraw allegations because they cannot face the criminal justice process. In other words if there is any doubt the crime remains recorded. There is a key difference between a victim who retracts their allegation and one who withdraws from the investigative process.

Given the high prevalence of no crimes, it seems that the verification that no crime occurred is not being followed through adequately. In some forces, it was found that only 40% of the no crime decisions were actually correct.

This is a fucking travesty. Thousands of people who have shown the courage to enter the agonising process of rape reporting are being let down, and their complaints dismissed away to nothing. When even the police think it is a problem, it is a serious problem indeed. This has very serious implications. For the survivor, this must be a thoroughly horrific experience: he or she will be unable to access the support provided by the system, and will experience doubt and guilt over what has happened. More broadly, it will make it harder to identify repeat rapists if a crime is not investigated or recorded.

It gets worse. Former police officer, politician and rather irritating public figure Brian Paddick recently testified at the Leveson enquiry regarding his time in the Met. He said that he had been asked to “tone down the criticisms and water-down the recommendations” in a previous report on rape reporting and investigation. In the light of this, what has been identified in the recent report may well be downplaying the problem rather than reporting it accurately.

Certainly, in my reading of the report, it was difficult to find some crucial data. For example, the statistic that some police forces have very low levels of correctly no criming rape allegations was fairly well-hidden and no attention was drawn to it. The problem of burying bad news remains in a desperate attempt to maintain a good reputation.

This PR exercise has major ramifications and can ultimately only make things worse, rather than better. Rather than frantically flapping around to cover their arses, the police need to admit honestly to their failings to create real solutions. Trust in the police is low. Most rape survivors do not report their rapes to an institution that should, theoretically, be on their side and help amend what has happened to them. This is not happening: it is merely an illusion of aid.

People are being failed due to severe problems which may be worse than imagined. Lives may be destroyed. This needs to change.

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5 responses to “Rape and “no crimes”: this is a fucking travesty

  • Rape, the police and political point-scoring « Another angry woman

    [...] done something interesting. Hot on the heels of his whistle-blowing about being asked by the Met to water down a report about rape, more revelations have [...]

  • ephemeradical

    TBH, with the criminal justice system the way it is, I’m almost glad so many women are being failed *so early* in the process: it saves them having to cope with the struggles of going through the rest, when so many won’t see the “justice” of a conviction anyway. /cynicism

    At least police are getting better at things like telling women about Rape Crisis centres. But I worry about what the new Police & Crime Commissioners will make of sexual violence.

  • Chodey McSyphilis

    Mod note: I’ve left this one in as indicative of the stupid, irrelevant WHATABOUTTEHMENZ shit I get all the time. This fuckwit is far from exceptional. They posted their name as “anonymous”. I’ve given them a more fitting moniker.

    but of course the liberties broken in the specific issue of rape allegations means that lots of men are wide open to this allegation, and often it will reach crown court and jury based on a single, unverifiable witness testimony alone (assuming there is no denial by the defendant of the act of penetration/sexual intercourse having taken place) ….

    …the implication on an individual’s life of having this horrible allegation made if it is not true can be so much more severe than a false allegation of murder, even of child abuse, that it HAS to be explicitly noted as a no crime. If you’ve ever spent 11 hours in a police cell having done absolutely not a thing wrong, in fact done everything not just right, but probably put way too much trust in a manipulative individual with not a shred of empathy or care for others in their body (in this case, a woman) – and if you’d ever spent that time not just co-operating fully with the process of having samples taken, pubic hair trimmings, penis head swabbings, blood removed from your veins, as well as the non-intimates… been left in the cell to consider whether you have a life anymore, and whether your best shot, on the off chance a jury does believe the lies of the accuser in this case, over the defense of your own – is to kill yourself before the trial – then to be grilled for 2 hours by CID before, after 11 hours, say, or maybe 24 or 36 if you are unlucky time-wise – being told you are released without having ever been charged with a single thing (and so as innocent as you, the police interviewing you, or anybody you might see on the street, at work, anybody, totally innocent, and the single piece of evidence (witness testimony from the victim) having fallen into question – if I was then to say she committed an equivalent crime of SSO against me, as it may have happened, or may not, but there was just as much reason for you or anybody else to think so, would you expect us both to remain rapists liable for vigilantism, victimisation, bullying, occupational problems and so on, for as long as we live.

    The truth is, the law is MASSIVELY in favour of victims here – it is one of the few things where the CPS will almost always seek a prosecution based on simply one single, unverifiable, uncorroborated witness statement alone (that of the victim) – even if this is completely equally weighted with a defending statement from the accused (normally the CPS wouldn’t touch this with a barge pole as it is ridiculously hard to prove)…
    The onus is on the victim, and CPS, to prove the crime took place. Otherwise, it is a no crime in this case – the implications of theft, GBH, even murder, are nothing compared to the implications of being labbelled somebody that ‘still could have’ carried out the crime of rape.

    Of course the individual who might’ve been accused of it ‘could have’ done it, just as you, the blogger here, could well have done it and the police, me, and your regular readers, family etc, simply would not know. But until an allegation is made, a charge is made, and especially a prosecution is made, would you think it fair to be treat like more of a rapist than any other, ‘probably innocent’ person you know (I would hope this is EVERYBODY you would associate with, unless you are incredibly, incredibly, unrealistically cynical and paranoid).

    This article stinks, and so does your view on justice, liberties and ethics.

  • We Believe You: the Mumsnet campaign against rape and sexual assault | Who Does She Think She Is?

    [...] The channeling of reported rapes into the category of “no crime” (UK, 2012) [...]

  • This is how seriously the police take rape « Another angry woman

    [...] a very low opinion of the police’s ability to handle rape cases, having written several times before on the matter. Even I was surprised, though, by this story. It shows things are even worse than I [...]

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