Andrew Stuart/AP

British Police Rethink Rape Investigation Techniques

July 10, 2008 07:01 AM
by Devin Felter
In proposing specialist squads to investigate rape cases, British police are taking a sober look at the country’s low rate of rape conviction, and its victim care.

30-Second Summary

In 2007, a 24-year-old British man was convicted of raping a 10-year-old girl. He was sent to prison for two years, the judge basing his sentence on the belief that the 10-year-old had “dressed provocatively.” Although this sentence was appealed and eventually extended to four years, British rape cases have been indicative of a social bias purporting that women bring rape upon themselves.

Roughly 6 percent of reported rapes in England and Wales lead to a conviction, compared to 13 percent in the United States. A British Crime Survey has also discovered that only 15 percent of rape crimes are reported to the police.

John Yates, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner, is spearheading efforts to create rape inquiry squads. He contends that more specialists, particularly in the initial investigation stages, would improve evidence-gathering and the efficacy of accusations.

“Every force has a responsibility to ensure that every single officer who comes into contact with a rape victim is supportive and believes the victim,” he says. “It may only take the raising of an eyebrow to cause her to lose courage.”

But these changes will be difficult to enact. Opinion polls reveal that one-quarter to one-third of Britons believe that a drunk or provocatively dressed rape victim is responsible for her attack.

“It is a national scandal that thousands of victims of rape have no access to justice,” says Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society. “In many cases women face a culture of disbelief, and delayed responses lead to the loss of vital evidence.”

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