Policing rape

Given the prevalence of the crime of rape and the disastrously low conviction rape (only about 6.5% of reported rapes currently lead to a rapist getting jailed), the creation of a special unit within the Metropolitan Police to investigate rape sounds like a good idea. So, two cheers for that.

But, today’s big news on policing is all about saving money – cutting down on overtime, two-police-officer patrols replaced by one. So the question hovering over this is: is the Met unit going to get the resourcing it will need?

Recently there was an outcry – including from some within the Met itself – at reports that its specialist anti-trafficking unit faced closure.  Hmmm, what price solving crime, eh? No-one ever said that effectively tackling violence against women in this country would be cheap, but the price of leaving these crimes to under-resourced, unprepared police teams will, in the long run, be far higher.

There’s another aspect to this as well – as pointed out by my esteemed colleague Mike (aka Derek Blanchard). Yesterday we had the news that the much-reviled Human Rights Act had helped a woman (named in the media as Catherine) bring a case against Cambridgeshire Police for not investigating her complaint of rape. The police settled out of court when faced with the prospect of a case being brought under the HRA.

With just 3.1% of reported rapes leading to prosecution by Cambridgeshire Police, the case has also highlighted pretty big divergences between different forces over rape convictions (the Met’s 8.7% is actually quite “high” by comparison). Could any of this be down to some forces being more disbelieving than others? Certainly, Amnesty public opinion research has shown that people in different parts of the country have different attitudes over attributing blame to rape victims themselves (though a signiifcant minority does always do this, including, no doubt, police officers themselves).

To listen to some (uninformed/bigoted) people, you’d think the Human Rights Act was responsible for every evil under the British sun. Anti-social behaviour? “That’ll be the Human Rights Act that will”. People getting out of prison early? “Yep, that’s got to be the fault of the Human Rights Act”. Bad weather across southern counties of England? “I expect the Human Rights Act is involved somehow”.

I hope the Cambridgeshire case will help correct that particular prejudice. But more importantly, I really hope that the policing of rape in Britain is going to haul itself out of the hole it’s currently in.

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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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