Why Won't Juries at Rape Trials Believe Women? AS THE NUMBER OF CONVICTIONS PLUMMETS

Article excerpt

Byline: By JULIE BINDEL Justice For Women founder

NEARLY 12,000 rapes are reported annually in Britain - but only one in 18 leads to a guilty verdict.

With the conviction rate at an all-time low, there is to be an urgent review of the way police investigate rape cases. But will it go far enough?

Here, Julie Bindel, founder of the Justice For Women campaign and a lecturer at London Metropolitan University's Child And Woman Studies unit, explains what needs to be done...

AS part of my research over the years, I have watched many rape trials at the Old Bailey.

As a result, however much I detest the crime, I would hate any woman I loved to face a rape trial.

The system is stacked against them, from the attitude of the police to the prejudices of the jury and the ineptitude of the judiciary.

But police have come a long way since the 1982 fly- on-the-wall documentary which showed Thames Valley police interrogating a rape complainant.

Three CID officers mocked her and scoffed at her story, telling her she didn't seem "too upset" and asking why she didn't scream or run away.

The documentary led to an outcry and a change in the way police dealt with rape complaints and much has improved since then.

But there are still coppers who think that women ask for it, that they give rapists the come-on.

And it is those beliefs which often deter rape victims from making formal complaints.

But the problem is not just with the police, it comes also from the attitudes of our judges, barristers and the general public who sit on our juries. Jurors just don't believe women. Many refuse to accept that a respectable young man in a smart suit can commit rape - and as a result more rapists are getting away with it.

If a jury is faced with a Tom Cruise lookalike and a woman in tarty clothes who likes a drink, who are they going to believe?

Rapists know that women like this are less likely to be believed.

Men who plan their rapes - and there are a lot more than people realise - target vulnerable women, women they know the juries won't like.

I ONCE sat in on the case of a woman who was an HIV counsellor and had been raped by one of her own clients.

His defence was that during a counselling session she had said to him: "Please can we have hot sex now?"

He said he couldn't possibly because he was HIV positive and didn't have protection.

But she had said it was OK, she was an expert in the field and would simply get a tablet the next day.

It was a ludicrous defence, and the man was convicted - but only after the jury had taken an age deliberating a verdict that should have taken minutes to reach.

The whole system is stacked against women. …