Two-thirds of rape cases reported are not brought to trial

 

JUST ONE in three rape cases reported to gardaí are prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), a study has revealed.

The report for the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) found that one of the main reasons for the low prosecution rate was a lack of evidence.

The Rape and Justice in Irelandreport by Conor Hanly of NUIG also found a narrow stereotype of the offence of rape was pushing many cases out of the legal system.

The report pointed to the binge drinking culture as a factor in the lack of prosecutions in many cases.

Alcohol plays a hugely important role, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) James Hamilton said at the launch of the report.

“If the only witness is so drunk she cannot remember it clearly, there is a real problem in the case,” he said.

Alcohol was a factor in over three-quarters of cases that the report looked at. More than three-quarters of suspects had drunk alcohol at the time of the incident, with over 41 per cent described as “severely intoxicated”.

Forty-five per cent of victims were “severely intoxicated” at the time of the incident and 20 per cent were moderately intoxicated.

“Rape is still rape where alcohol is a factor, but this research finds that alcohol means the rape does not count,” Fiona Neary, chief executive of the RCNI, said.

Victims who had been drinking were more vulnerable to sexual assault and are less likely to be considered a reliable witness, she said.

“The justice system is failing to provide redress for victims who had been drinking,” she said.

Deputy Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the frequent involvement of alcohol in rape made it one of the most difficult crimes to investigate and it also denied the victim justice.

The report also found that cases which fit a narrow stereotype – in which a person is attacked by a stranger in a public place – are more likely to be prosecuted.

However, it also showed that in two-thirds of reported rape cases the rapist is known to the victim and it takes place in private.

If the rape does not conform to this stereotype the victim will not generally be believed and will decide not to report, Ms Neary said.

Forty per cent of those who reported considered withdrawing due to the poor reaction by gardaí, the report found.

Gardaí often second guess DPP decisions and ask the victim if they are prepared to go through with the trauma, Ms Neary said.

The DPP also tends to make an assessment about the jury’s response in line with the narrow stereotype, she said.

Mr Hamilton said that trying to prove cases beyond a reasonable doubt was different with a rape by a stranger as they could not argue about consent.

However, with an acquaintance the burden of proof was on the prosecutor, he said.

Male-dominated jurys were more likely to produce a guilty verdict in rape cases than female-dominated juries, the research found.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Justice Paul Carney said that a jury gender quota would, if anything, increase acquittals.

A profile of the majority of victims showed them to be under 30 and working in unskilled or manual jobs. It revealed that most perpetrators were of low educational attainment, with a background of alcohol abuse.

However, Mr Hanly said there could be reasons why this demographic reported to the Garda while others did not.

Recommendations: main areas:

REPORTING STAGE

Gardaí need to keep in regular contact with rape complainants.

Specialist training should be given to gardaí who take statements from people with mental disability. Gardaí should not attempt to dissuade victims from proceeding.

PROSECUTING STAGE

The DPP should investigate the over-representation of non- national defendants (24 per cent) to make sure prosecutions are for proper reasons. The DPP should develop a protocol for dealing with complainants with a mental illness to ensure they are not dropped because of their condition.

COURT PROCEEDINGS STAGE

Bail should not be granted if the defendant has been previously convicted of rape but is awaiting trial. The jury’s deliberative process should be researched. Gender quotas should not be imposed. Hostility to consecutive sentences needs to be justified or abandoned. A defendant should be forbidden to cross-examine the complainant. Restrictions on the introduction of sexual history evidence should be extended to the prosecution.

OUTSIDE THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROCESS

Dealing with the drinking culture should be a part of any campaign.