This study is a critical review of (Hohl and Stanko, 2015), work on fresh evidence on attrition of rape cases challenges facing England and Wales. According to (Hester, and Lilley, 2017), rape cases should be identified as a non-consensual offense which includes violence or threats to violence. In the study, the authors determine that in Europe, the UK is one of the nations that record the lowest conviction rates of rape cases. The article identifies factors within the English judicial system that significantly influence the attrition of rape allegations. In an attempt to obtain such evidence, the study selected representative samples from London Metropolitan Police which would assist in assessing all the reported rape allegations. The article identifies some rape myths, ethnicity, stereotypes on attrition and police as well as prosecutors perceptions on evidence and truthfulness of claims as critical factors that influence the outcomes of such cases (Saunders, 2012). Other factors include false and inconsistent accounts of alleged rape that create significant doubts and subsequent withdrawal of such claims.
The critical review
According to the authors, most of rape victims do not report such cases to the criminal justice systems, and out of the few reported, barely a handful of them result in a conviction. Such results demonstrate the existence of gaps within the criminal justice system and inability to fully promote justice for such victims. By 2013, the article notes that only 7% of reported cases had been convicted in the UK and Wales (Home Office and Ministry of Justice, 2013). The study identifies two critical pathways to attrition and includes the decision to withdraw such cases, and decisions by police or CPS to discontinue such matters. The decisions by police to take no further action on such cases accounted for 40% of such cases while the remaining 30% was dropped through CPS decisions not to take any further action and block prosecution in courts of law (Hohl, and Stanko, 2015). Victim withdrawal was also likely to occur in the early periods of the progress, and such cases accounted for 50% of all attrition cases.
The results of the study appeared to support the existing myths of real classical rape. Rape myths include both descriptive and prescriptive viewpoint about rape, that seek to validate sexual cruelty behaviors, particularly against women. Such myths are about the causes of rape, consequences, and interactions and relationships between victim and perpetrators. The study identifies that victims are not likely to withdraw rape cases if the suspect was a total stranger. Rape cases involving unfamiliar persons were more prone to go through attrition as associated with difficulties in identifying the offender. The study classified mental health challenges and learning difficulties as a form of victim vulnerabilities that experience high rates of attrition due to police and CPS decisions to take no further action on such crimes.
The study identifies the gender expectations factors alongside the rape myths as to play a critical role in attrition. According to the survey, the police are more likely to discontinue the case in a situation where the victim does not understand the legal meaning of the term consent. Police are also more likely to decide to terminate the case in circumstances where victims demonstrated an account of previous consensual sexual activities with the offender, or in a matter of voluntary consumption of alcohol before the occurrence of such claims. However, the data presented by the study does not assist readers in evaluating the possibility of racial discrimination as a contributing factor to cases of attrition. The situation is despite the existence of extensive literature that has appeared to consistently provide evidence on racial discrimination of non-white or black suspects by police during searches and other encounters.
The study provides insights on the effectiveness of measures employed to reduce probabilities of rape case attrition. Such measures include allowing victims to attend haven for support and ensuring that the witness statement is video recorded to ensure that such individuals do not present themselves during hearings. Victims provided with such shelters are less likely to withdraw rape cases. Additionally, such cases are more likely to be referred to CPS for further actions. The study notes that individuals with mental challenges continue to present difficulties in the determination of rape cases and criminal justice cases in general. The study identifies that attendance to a place of safety and protection did not result in a significant reduction of attrition through withdrawal for such people.
The study also makes critical suggestions about the perceived credibility of the allegations as seen and identified by the investigating officers. According to the survey, any doubts by the police officers about the complaints and evidence presented resulted in discontinuation of such charges. The study identifies that only 2% of such cases were referred to the CPS for further actions and charges. According to (Parratt, and Pina, 2017), the rape beliefs are influenced by several factors which are inter-related and which stems from beliefs and prejudices they take to places of work. The characteristics surrounding the offenses of the victims can also shape the actions of police officers. Other factors such as age, gender and ethnicity should be addressed during training to induce behavioral and performance of such officers. Hine, and Murphy, (2017), had also made important observations that there’s the need to assess the beliefs and attitudes of police officers in the criminal justice system, particularly about rape cases. Such officers play a critical role during the inquiry and can have a significant influence on the progression of such claims.
The study, therefore, appears to suggest that despite the notable increase in several rape cases being reported to the police departments, only a few of such cases are likely to see offenders in the court. The study identifies the need to address the impact of rape myths as they have continued to influence the existence of attrition challenges. The research suggests the need for the legal process to be normative and data-driven. It should include a fact-finding process where the investigators, prosecutors, and judges are not reliant on the stereotypes and beliefs about rape cases when making their decisions.
The study is consistent with other research findings that indicate that rape myths and gender expectations have a significant impact on processes and outcomes of rape cases in the legal and judicial system. The inquiry process and policy decisions are also impacted by other factors such as the history of consensual sex, mental challenges, and poor learning capabilities of the victims. However, the study does not provide any significant information on factors that contribute to disproportionality in investigations and determination of rape cases. Whereas the reviewed article does not offer specific government and legal interventions to improve the criminal justice system, it identifies the need for incorporation of consistent empirical findings during the development of such conclusions to strengthen the judicial system in dealing with rape cases.
Hester, M. and Lilley, S.J., 2017. Rape investigation and attrition in acquaintance, domestic violence and historical rape cases. Journal of investigative psychology and offender profiling, 14(2), pp.175-188.
Hine, B. and Murphy, A., 2017. The impact of the victim-perpetrator relationship, reputation and initial point of resistance on officers’ responsibility and authenticity ratings towards hypothetical rape cases. Journal of Criminal Justice, 49, pp.1-13.
Hohl, K. and Stanko, E.A., 2015. Complaints of rape and the criminal justice system: Fresh evidence on the attrition problem in England and Wales. European journal of criminology, 12(3), pp.324-341.
Home Office and Ministry of Justice (2013) An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales, Sexual offending overview tables. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/anoverview-of-sexual-offending-in-england-and-wales
Parratt, K.A. and Pina, A., 2017. From “real rape” to real justice: A systematic review of police officers’ rape myth beliefs. Aggression and violent behavior, 34, pp.68-83.
Saunders, C.L., 2012. The truth, the half-truth, and nothing like the truth: Reconceptualizing false allegations of rape. British journal of criminology, 52(6), pp.1152-1171.