PRESS RELEASE: 27 organisations urge DPP not to prosecute rape victims

Twenty-seven organisations, including rape crisis centres and women’s aid groups, have written to Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), alarmed by rising prosecutions of women for supposed false allegations of rape or domestic violence. They say that such prosecutions are not in the public interest and that they are deterring rape survivors from coming forward.

There are no official figures of how many women are prosecuted for allegedly making a false allegation of rape, but the media has reported about three prosecutions per month in 2010/2011 – an alarming rise compared to around one every two months in 2006/2007.

The organisations joined Women Against Rape in a common response to a CPS consultation on Interim Guidelines for prosecutors. In their letter, (read here) they state that:

Prosecuting women 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%.

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.

Such prosecutions give the misleading impression that false allegations are a major problem when they are in fact extremely rare.

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.

A number of innocent women have been wrongly convicted of making a false allegation. Some were forced to retract, others never retracted.

At a meeting in February, Women Against Rape raised with the DPP a number of miscarriages of justice. These included Gail Sherwood and Layla Ibrahim whose sister Sarah Arthur was at the meeting. While the violent perpetrators were not found in either case, the victims were accused of causing their own injuries and jailed – Ms Ibrahim was given a three-year sentence despite being pregnant at the time. We also complained about sex worker Hannah Morris being prosecuted for brothel-keeping after she reported a serious attack by two armed men. We urged the DPP to stop prosecuting women while violent men operate with impunity.

Last October a woman in Wales was jailed after she reported her violent husband but retracted under pressure from him and his family. Her jailing was a watershed, and she was released from prison on appeal, to serve a community sentence instead. But she now has a criminal record, while her rapist ex-partner does not.

Lisa Longstaff of WAR added

The DPP is contradicting himself: the Guidelines urge caution before prosecuting, but in promoting them he said that the CPS would robustly prosecute any woman who ‘lies’. Just because a woman is disbelieved by sexist officers doesn’t mean she lied, and even if she did prosecuting her does more harm than good.