An excellent piece in today’s Times:
By setting out to convict more rapists ministers will tilt the scales unfairly against the innocent
Last year, fewer than one in 60 rape claims reported to the police resulted in the suspect being charged. Over the past five years, charging rates have fallen from 8.3 per cent of reported cases to 1.5 per cent.
This trend has been worrying ministers. A review into the handling of rape complaints is aimed at bumping up prosecution and conviction rates. It was set up in 2019 by the Home Office and Ministry of Justice and was due to be published yesterday, but has been delayed, again. Not without good reason.
Kit Malthouse, the Home Office minister, told the Commons last month that the government had long recognised this decline in the number of rape cases concluding with a guilty verdict as “a cause of significant concern”.
Really? Why? To claim that the conviction rate is too low is inescapably to imply that these defendants are guilty. By what justifiable standard can this be assumed in a society where justice is based on the presumption of innocence? The statistics certainly show a trend. In 2019-20, the police recorded 55,130 rapes in England and Wales but there were only 2,102 prosecutions and 1,439 convictions. Three years previously, 41,616 rapes were recorded with 5,190 prosecutions and 2,991 convictions.
Rape, however, is a notoriously difficult crime to prove, with the evidence often limited to one person’s word against the other. And the rise in rape claims, following the start of the #MeToo movement in 2017, could be the result of more women feeling emboldened to make false complaints as much as their being encouraged to make well-founded ones.
Nevertheless, the review will reportedly include measures to increase prosecution and conviction rates. Proposals are said to include allowing complainants to pre-record their evidence and to be cross-examined in advance, to avoid them facing their presumed attacker in court. Another idea is to ban prosecutors from cross-examining complainants about their sexual history.
There are serious problems with this. Pre-recorded evidence would mean questioning complainants years before the defendants give evidence and possibly before all the prosecution evidence is collected, making such cross-examination deeply deficient. And, in the words of one critic, excluding complainants’ sexual history would “reduce the need for the police and prosecution to look for evidence that may undermine their case”.
So maybe the delay in publishing the review is the result of an irreconcilable collision between the rape “victims” lobby and those concerned with maintaining the basic tenets of justice.
Women’s rights campaigners are demanding, in effect, that the normal procedures of the justice system shouldn’t be applied to rape complainants. They oppose such accusers being cross-examined, giving the police their mobile phones or disclosing their sexual history because, they say, this makes them feel as if they’re the ones on trial.
They say that under the present system complainants aren’t believed and may even end up being blamed for their own conduct. But justice requires that neither they nor the defendants should be believed at the outset. A rape complaint should be taken seriously and, if there’s sufficient evidence, tested in court. That doesn’t mean assuming it to be true.
Rapes happen, their perpetrators should be prosecuted and any obstacle to that should be dealt with. However, the decline in prosecutions and convictions has taken place over the years in tandem with a huge increase in promiscuous sexual behaviour. The majority of complainants are or have been in relationships with their alleged attacker. This often creates an unavoidable ambiguity which may lead to reasonable doubt and acquittal.
The proportion of victims withdrawing from rape prosecutions has doubled from 20 per cent to more than 40 per cent in five years. Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner, believes this is because of the trauma of being questioned in court. But maybe these complainants realised instead that their case wouldn’t stand up because it was too weak and ambiguous. And there have been a number of cases in which men convicted of rape have subsequently been shown to have been unjustly charged.
All this, however, is brushed aside. Last month, the repeated delays in publishing the rape review led to complaints in the Commons that prosecutions remained low while rapes were rising. Malthouse responded by saying he appreciated such “righteous anger”, that the government was working to correct this “injustice” and that the challenge was to “put victims at the heart of the system”. But the word “victims” suggests all those accused are indeed guilty. Surely the heart of the system should be instead dispassionate justice.
Such a craven response suggests kneejerk genuflection to the ultra-feminist canard that men are innately violent towards women. The reality is more complicated. Repeated studies have shown that in cases of domestic violence, for example, women initiate aggression as frequently as do men.
Yes, many more women are killed by men in such incidents than the other way round. But that’s because men are stronger and the injuries they inflict are therefore more devastating. The suggestion that men are violent while women are merely their passive victims is, however, generally untrue.
So the question is why so many men appear to have accepted the slander against themselves — and why so many allegedly conservative politicians are prepared to turn justice on its head as a result.
You can subscribe to The Times here.
Our last general election manifesto is here.
If everyone who read this gave us £5.00 – or even better, £5.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. £5.00 monthly would entitle you to Bronze party membership, details here. Benefits include a dedicated and signed book by Mike Buchanan. Click below to make a difference. Thanks.
Nobody connected with J4MB has ever drawn any personal income from the party’s income streams. If you’d like to support Mike Buchanan financially, you can do so via his Patreon account or through Bitcoin, his account address is 1EfWxqDAtgJDCR3tVpvVj4fXSuUu4S9WJf . Thank you.