Alcohol a major factor in failure of rape cases


A MAJOR reason why the Director of Public Prosecutions does not prosecute in alleged rape cases is because the complainant is unable to recall the alleged offence or the details of it as a result of intoxication.

According to the DPP’s latest annual report published yesterday, in the vast majority of alleged rape cases no prosecution is mounted as there is insufficient evidence. Where cases were not prosecuted for insufficiency of evidence a major reason was intoxication, where the complainant could not recall clearly the alleged offence or the details of it. Questions also arose concerning whether the complainant’s account was credible and reliable.

Delay in making a complaint was also a factor, and arose in almost 10 per cent of all decisions not to prosecute. Such delay could mean a lack of medical or forensic evidence due to lapse of time.

The report contains the results of a survey of rape files in the office, where 800 such files were examined. A detailed examination of all files relating to 2005, a total of 296, was carried out, as files originating in this year, if proceeded with, were likely to have gone through the courts, including appeals.

The research found that the majority of complainants, 93 per cent, were women. One in four of all complainants was under 18 at the time of the alleged offence. The research included offences of unlawful carnal knowledge of under-age girls and boys.

It also found that in 58 per cent of cases either the complainant or the suspect were intoxicated at the time of the alleged offence. This was lower than the figure in earlier rape research, but this is probably explained by the fact that both adults and children were included, the report states.

Complainants withdrew their complaint in 17 per cent of the cases, usually before the file reached the office of the DPP. This figure was also lower than in the earlier research, and again was probably explained by the inclusion of child victims, who are much less likely to withdraw a complaint. In 1 per cent of the cases withdrawn complainants admitted making a false allegation.

Introducing the research, DPP James Hamilton said that rape offences, which include vaginal, oral and anal penetration, were very serious, and in all cases it was necessary to prove that the complainant did not consent, and that the suspect knew he or she did not consent or was reckless as to whether there was consent. All elements of the offence must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt to prosecute successfully.

The overwhelming majority of cases occur in a private location with no witnesses, and most allegations relate to a suspect known to the injured party.

This is the last report from the current DPP, as Mr Hamilton retires next week after 12 years, and will be replaced by Claire Loftus. In his foreword to the report he says the position of the victim within the criminal justice system has improved greatly in the past decade.

In 35 per cent of files referred to the DPP there was a decision not to prosecute. The main reason for a decision not to prosecute was insufficiency of evidence. In about a third of cases the prosecution went to the District Court, and in the remainder was on indictment to the Circuit Criminal Court or, in the case of murder or rape, the Central Criminal Court.

The report shows a slight fall in the number of acquittals, to 2 per cent in 2009, down from 4 per cent in 2007. Almost a third of the 2009 files have yet to be heard. Of the cases brought to trial, 97 per cent resulted in a conviction, including 94 per cent following a plea of guilty. The number of files dealt with by the office has more than doubled since Mr Hamilton took office, from 7,321 in 1999 to 15,952 last year.