Urgent response to CPS consultation re prosecution of women
for alleged for allegations of rape
We met with Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), last month, and strongly objected to the number of victims wrongly accused of making a false allegation of rape and then prosecuted. We are working with some of them, including Gail Sherwood (sentenced to two years in prison), and Layla Ibrahim (serving a three year sentence) whose sister Sara Arthur was at the meeting.
The imprisonment of a woman in Wales last year for a ‘false retraction’ of rape caused widespread indignation. She had withdrawn her complaint against her violent husband after pressure from him and his family – she first said that he had not raped her and then that he had but that she didn’t want him prosecuted. The police knew there was a long history of domestic violence and believed the woman had been raped, yet she was prosecuted. Her sentence was quashed on appeal but she still has a criminal conviction while the husband does not.
In response to this public outcry, the DPP announced that he would personally look at all cases of ‘false retraction’ before a prosecution can go ahead. Shortly after, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published Interim Guidance of what they should consider before prosecuting anyone for a false allegation of rape or domestic violence.
We told the DPP that we do not agree with such prosecutions, especially since police and prosecutors have shown themselves to be biased against rape victims. We gave him a paper listing some of our main reasons. [Click here to read.]
We also asked him to intervene in cases of wrongful convictions but he has said that there is nothing he can do about them. Yet it is very hard to get a case to the Court of Appeal, especially if you can’t afford a solicitor or if there is no “new evidence” for the court to consider. We cannot allow the CPS to brush under the carpet the biased decisions they have made in the past. CPS workers, like any other workers, should be held to account.
The DPP has urged us to respond to the CPS Interim Guidance. We want as many people as possible to respond too. We must show them that anything short of ending the prosecution of rape victims is unacceptable.
We urge you to comment on the Guidance ASAP. You can find it here:
The consultation period ends on 6 May.
Please send in your or your organisation’s response (and cc it to us), and/or endorse our Open Letter below.
OPEN LETTER TO KEIR STARMER
Re: CONSULTATION ON ALLEGED FALSE ALLEGATIONS OF RAPE
We strongly believe that the prosecution of women for alleged false allegations of rape is not in the public interest. This is because:
· It distracts from the true rape scandal that over 90% of rapists get away with it since 90% of rapes are never reported, up to 45% of reports are no-crimed, and the conviction rate for reported rape is 6.5%.
· It gives the misleading impression that false allegations are a major problem when they are in fact extremely rare.
· It deters rape survivors from coming forward. Survivors do a public service by reporting dangerous men so they can be stopped from raping again. This should be encouraged. But many women are now afraid to report in case they are disbelieved and sent to jail.
· Every time a victim is disbelieved and prosecuted, a message is sent to rapists that they will get away with rape, while their victim will be punished twice: by them and by the criminal justice system.
· Victims are often under pressure to retract. In some cases by the police, in others by fear of retaliation or fear of losing their children (social services have been known to take the children of victims of domestic violence.)
· Prosecutions for alleged false allegations often follow biased and negligent rape investigations. Perpetrators are believed in preference to victims, evidence is lost or not gathered, witnesses not interviewed, statements not taken. Therefore, we cannot trust police or CPS to reliably assess whether a woman is lying or not.
· Women who have been raped more than once are particularly vulnerable to being disbelieved, especially if they previously reported an attack which didn’t lead to a conviction. Yet 37% of rape victims have been raped more than once. “A history of making demonstrably false complaints” may be a history of being disbelieved by biased authorities. Children are even more likely to be disbelieved.
· The police and CPS are particularly prejudiced against women and girls who are: mentally ill, drug users, immigrants, asylum seekers, working class, sex workers or have a criminal record. Once women are disbelieved, it is only a small step further to prosecuting them for an alleged ‘false allegation’.
· If a raped woman is sent to prison she suffers additional trauma at a time when she most needs support.
· Children whose mothers are imprisoned suffer untold lasting harm.
· Women who have been convicted for making a false allegation are a target for more violence, as they will not be believed if they are attacked again.
· An investigation can establish when an allegation looks unfounded before any harm is done to anyone. In most cases the man has not suffered more than questioning.
· When both accuser and accused are young, a prosecution is the least appropriate action and can cause long lasting damage to both parties.
· A number of innocent women have been wrongly convicted of making a false allegation. Some were forced to retract, others never retracted. Such victims of miscarriages of justice should be released and have their convictions quashed.
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www.womenagainstrape.net Crossroads Women's Centre, 230A Kentish Town Rd, London NW5 2AB
Tel: 020 7482 2496 Fax: 020 7209 4761