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Sunday 31 August 2014

Alarm at rape conviction rate

Only 7pc of all the reported cases end in criminal sanctions

Breda Heffernan

Published 07/12/2009 | 05:00

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JUST 7pc of rapes reported to gardai result in convictions, one of the most extensive studies ever carried out on the subject has found.

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The landmark study was given unprecedented access to almost 600 files held by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and looked at more than 170 Central Criminal Court trials and transcripts of cases.

It found just seven out of every 100 suspected rape cases reported to gardai led to convictions. Countless more rapes were never reported at all.

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) will launch the report 'Rape and Justice in Ireland' at a conference in Dublin today which will be addressed by Deputy Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, DPP James Hamilton and Mr Justice Paul Carney.

The report found that the quality of social and official support for survivors of rape is vitally important in determining whether a case progresses to court or not.

Meanwhile, many survivors and officials tended to think and act in terms of "real rape" scenarios -- such as the stereotypical image of a woman being raped by a stranger on a street at night -- despite the fact that the majority of rapes don't happen like that.

Director of the RCNI, Fiona Neary, said survivors of rape often feel it is they who are on trial. "We know from victims that the criminal justice system is failing in rape cases. Ireland's conviction rate from reported incidents to conviction is amongst the lowest in Europe.

"Survivors in Rape Crisis Centres tell us of their fears about reporting. They talk of the lack of dignity and respect in how they are treated; how they feel it is they who are on trial, and how their voice is ignored by the system," she added.

Many victims who do report rape are left in limbo as they wait for the case to finally come to trial, sometimes several years later.

"For those who have a positive experience of reporting, they also feel isolated and lost, are not kept informed and have been unable to move on with their lives because of the years waiting for their case to come to court," explained Ms Neary.

In a recently published review of activities by the RCNI, it emerged that victims are more prepared to report rape and sexual violence to gardai. Around one in five people using the network in 2008 had reported it to gardai, up from around 6pc in 2000.

Stranger

However, Ms Neary pointed out that abuse by a stranger is still more likely to be reported by a victim, while abuse perpetrated by family members is the least likely to be. "That means the most prevalent abuse is not being reported at all," she said.

Among adults, women are more likely to be raped or abused by someone they know, including by a partner or ex-partner, while men were more likely to be abused by a stranger.

The latest research, which was headed by Conor Hanley, lecturer at the National University of Ireland, Galway, also heard the direct experiences of 100 survivors of adult rape.

Irish Independent

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