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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 01:13 GMT 02:13 UK
'Postcode lottery' in rape cases
Unidentified woman
Some rape victims get more help than others
New government research suggests there is a postcode lottery in the treatment of rape victims by the criminal justice system in England and Wales.

The report for the Home Office praises the work of three sexual assault referral centres which provide medical treatment and counselling for victims.

It claims the centres also increase the chance of a conviction because specialist staff gather evidence.

But most victims do not have access to this level of service, it concludes.

In these referral centres, specialist doctors and nurses gather evidence to prosecute offenders, which improves the chances of a conviction.

Variations

Currently fewer than one in 10 rapes reported to the police leads to a guilty verdict.

This study of referral centres suggests they reduce the number of cases where a woman withdraws an allegation before getting to court.

Police want the range of services these centres provide to be available to all forces in England and Wales.

They believe the 16 centres scheduled to be operating by the autumn should be doubled in number.

Last month, Home Office analysis of prosecutions revealed wide variations in conviction rates across police force areas in England and Wales.




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The BBC's Neil Bennett
"Early forensic work directly affects the chances of conviction"



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