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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 01:25 GMT 02:25 UK
Lawyers target rape case failure
Specialist barristers will handle cases in court
New rules to improve the way rape cases are handled are being launched by the Crown Prosecution Service.

They come after Home Office analysis of prosecutions revealed wide variations in conviction rates across police force areas in England and Wales.

A network of specialist prosecutors, which will include only the most senior barristers whose performance will be closely monitored, has been set up.

And the consent of two prosecutors will be needed if a case is to be dropped.

Victims will also have the right to meet prosecuting lawyers who will have to explain their decision.

It is hoped the changes will encourage more rape victims to come forward and increase their confidence in the prosecution process.

We take all allegations of rape seriously, whatever the sex, culture, race or sexual orientation of the victim
Ken Macdonald QC
Director of Public Prosecutions
The rate of successful prosecutions has fallen from 30% of cases to 8%, or 1 case in 13, in the space of a generation, a 2004 report showed.

In five areas - Bedfordshire, Dorset, Sussex, Warwickshire and Wiltshire - the proportion of rape defendants found guilty by a jury was 80% or more.

But in Avon and Somerset, Derbyshire and Gloucestershire it was less than 30%.

The policy is being launched in London by Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald QC and Solicitor General Harriet Harman.

"This latest document is designed to show that we take all allegations of rape seriously, whatever the sex, culture, race or sexual orientation of the victim," Mr Macdonald said.

Ms Harman said reported rapes had increased dramatically but many victims still do not go to the police or follow the case through.

"Rape is still less likely to be reported, less likely to result in a charge and less likely to be prosecuted than other serious crimes," she said.

"That's why this policy is so important."

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"The problems seem to start with the legal process"


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