Friday 26 May 2017

Some rape cases fail to proceed as victim was drunk -- DPP

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

SOME alleged rape victims were so drunk that they could not remember what had happened -- and this was a major factor in the decision not to prosecute their alleged assailants.

In almost six out of 10 rape cases, either the victim or the accused was under the influence of drink or drugs, according to a survey conducted by the office of the DPP.

James Hamilton (pictured), who will retire later this month after 12 years as DPP, revealed in his final annual report that intoxication was a major reason why prosecutors could not gather "sufficient" evidence to prosecute a rape case.

The office conducted a review of 800 rape files over a three-year period. And it looked in detail at 296 cases from 2005 as cases from that year were likely to have already gone through the justice system.

The survey found that in 58pc of the 296 cases surveyed from the 2005 data, either the complainant or the suspect were intoxicated at the time of the alleged rape.

"In a significant proportion of cases it was stated that the reliability of the complainant's account was undermined by high levels of intoxication," said Mr Hamilton in his first dedicated chapter on rape cases.

"The fact that (the) complainant was extremely intoxicated and could not recall the alleged offence was a major factor in the decision not to prosecute."

Ellen O'Malley Dunlop, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said it was "desperately sad" that the office of the DPP could not prosecute cases on the basis of intoxication as victims knew when they had been violated.

She said the law should be changed to punish perpetrators who rape victims when they are so drunk or under the influence of drugs that they cannot give their consent.

"The law should make an example of them," she added.

At present, intoxication is no defence to someone who commits a crime. But many rape cases are dropped because the alleged victim is so inebriated that they can not recall the events in full or their evidence is undermined because they were intoxicated.

The majority of rape complainants, some 93pc, were women and one in four were under 18 at the time of the alleged offence.

The vast majority of cases occurred in a private location with no witnesses present.

Forensics

Rape includes vaginal, oral and anal penetration and the DPP's review included reports of unlawful carnal knowledge, where the complainant is under-age.

As with previous research on rape trends in Ireland, most rape suspects were known to the complainants.

Mr Hamilton revealed that in 58pc of cases, the insufficiency of evidence was based on a number of factors including intoxication, the credibility of and reliability of the alleged victim and delay.

Delay in making a complaint, which can lead to the loss of vital forensic and medical evidence, was a primary reason for not prosecuting in almost one in 10 cases.

Almost one in five people withdrew their rape complaint, with admissions that the rape report was false being made in only 1pc of cases.

The first woman to take up the post, solicitor Claire Loftus, will become the new DPP on Tuesday of next week.

Irish Independent

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