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Northern Ireland: a rapist's paradise?

The number of rapes being reported in Northern Ireland has increased by 50% in the past six years, according to official figures. More than 450 rapes or attempted rapes were reported last year – more than one every day.

Only 3% of cases resulted in convictions. In England and Wales the conviction rate is – even at a pathetic 6% – still double that of Northern Ireland.

Does a pronouncement today by a senior Northern Ireland judge explain one of the reasons for us having such a low conviction rate for rape?

Judge Desmond Marrinan has criticised the PSNI for an unacceptable standard of investigation in a 2007 rape case. At the trial today, the accused man was acquitted (quite properly, according to the judge, "based on the evidence presented") according to the BBC report, but the judge went on to attack the police handling of the case:

"Serious criminal allegations should only be investigated by experienced officers and in this case it was unacceptable to the court to have a rape allegation investigated by a junior officer halfway though her training".

Following hard on the heels of Amnesty's survey of shocking attitudes towards rape in Northern Ireland (remember, 46% of university students thought a woman was partially or totally responsible for her own rape if she had been acting flirtatiously), one has to wonder if the police involved treated this rape case lightly because of their own attitudes. Or did many of the students we surveyed think so little of rape because so few rapists in Northern Ireland are ever convicted of the crime?

Maybe both are true, part of a vicious circle, within the vortex of which are caught the female victims of rape, damned by society to carry part of the blame, and extremely unlikely to see their attacker brought to justice.

Last week Fionola Meredith branded Northern Ireland a sexist's paradise.

Maybe it's worse than that.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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