'We're Not Asking That Rape Be Made a Special Case, Just That It Be Treated as a Serious Crime'; in the Hot Seat

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHNATHAN NEAL

Why are women so angry about the courts' attitude to rape?

Lisa Longstaff, spokeswoman for the Women Against Rape pressure group, answers the questions

man falsely accused of rape was freed this month by a court, having spent two years behind bars.

His reputation was ruined, yet the woman who accused him, a serial liar, is allowed to remain anonymous. Surely this can't be right?

One reason that the defendant's name is made public is that it might encourage other women to come forward if he has raped before. Unless women are guaranteed anonymity in rape cases, fewer will come forward. But we agree that there is a strong case for everybody involved in a criminal case to be anonymous - whether that is rape, robbery, murder or anything else. We are not asking that rape be made a special case - just that it be treated as any other serious crime and for the women who report it to be treated with respect. Unfortunately, that isn't happening.

2002, the Government overhauled rape laws in an effort to increase conviction rates and "rebalance the system in favour of victims". The number of rapes reported annually in Britain is at an all-time high of 11,700 - yet only one in 20 leads to a criminal conviction, an all-time low. What is going wrong?

time laws are passed, the people who are supposed to implement them carry on regardless. Women still call us every day, saying the police didn't believe them, or if they did the Crown Prosecution Service wouldn't prosecute, and if the case got to court they didn't get a chance to have their say, that evidence wasn't presented, that they were humiliated and discredited, and that no one defended them. The police blame the CPS, the CPS blames the police, they both blame the court system and everyone, including the rapist, is allowed to get away with it.

The Home Office has instructed police that they must believe women who report rape. What should happen is that every officer found not to have believed a woman should be sacked. The same goes for prosecutors who persistently fail to

QHearing make a woman's case and present evidence in court. The Government can make as many changes to the law as it likes but until it starts to take action it is merely paying lip service to the issue.

recent Home Office report claimed the real number of rapes per year in this country is at least 47,000.

Why are so many cases still going unreported?

don't report rape because they don't think the man will be convicted. There is a saying in legal circles that rape is an easy allegation to make but a hard one to prove. This is not true; it's not an easy allegation.

Women who are raped find it hard to talk to their family and friends about it - imagine how hard it is to tell strangers who you know may not believe you, who will question your integrity and lifestyle, knowing that you might have to go through the same thing in court and that it could amount to nothing. …