Rape Victims Face 'Postcode Lottery' of Lack of Qualified Forensic Staff; DEMAND FOR MULTI-AGENCY EFFORT TO CONVICT RAPISTS
Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY
RAPE victims are being let down and criminals are walking free because of a lack of qualified medical experts, a leading Welsh doctor has claimed.
The British Medical Association Wales has raised serious concerns about the "patchy" provision of trained forensic medical examiners who deal with rape cases.
And a support group has spoken of how rape victims in Wales face a postcode lottery in relation to conviction rates.
Forensic medical examiners (FME) provide healthcare and forensic assessment to people in custody at the request of a police service.
But they also examine rape and child sex abuse victims and help to gather evidence which can be crucial in court cases.
Dr Richard Lewis, the BMA's Welsh secretary, who has a postgraduate qualification in forensic and legal medicine, said: "We know that conviction rates for rape in this country are pitifully low. Around 120,000 rapes take place each year in England and Wales and yet last year saw only 2,000 convictions.
"That's just one conviction for every 60 rapes reported to the police.
"Of course, conviction rates are not the quintessential element of an effective rape strategy, but these figures are shocking, and there is no hiding from that fact.
"There are insufficient foren-sic physicians with the necessary skills, leading to variation in provision, such that it is not always possible to provide doctors with sufficient experience or suitability for the task."
Dr Lewis said not only are the victims of crime being let down but guilty people are walking free. "The truth is that at the moment rapists and other sexual offenders are able to avoid conviction and that needs to be addressed," he said.
"In our view, rape should be treated with the same professionalism as all other crimes and have available the medical forensic capacity to deliver the high standards necessary with consistency across Wales."
Libby Jones, who works for New Pathways, which provides dedicated support for rape victims in Wales, said: "We know there is a postcode lottery for victims of rape in Wales.
"The chances of a successful prosecution in rape cases, even when guilt is clear, should not deter victims of rape and sexual assault from coming forward. …