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Last Updated: Monday, 14 January 2008, 18:24 GMT
Rape telephone trap 'considered'
Silhouette of a woman
England and Wales has a low rape conviction rate
Prosecutors and police are considering using telephone calls or text messages to lure rape suspects into incriminating themselves.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed "initial discussions" were under way on whether such tactics could improve the UK's rape conviction rate.

Under the system, rape victims call or message an alleged attacker in a bid to extract an admission of guilt.

Support groups said the focus should be on failures in rape case prosecution.

Discussions are at an early stage, but we are interested in exploring anything which might help to achieve justice for victims of rape
CPS

So-called "pretext phone calls" are used in some US states, Australia and Canada and attempt to get alleged attackers to confess or incriminate themselves while speaking to victims.

The measures could help improve England and Wales' conviction rate of about 6% - the lowest among leading European countries.

The CPS said in a statement: "We can confirm that we have had initial discussions with the police about the possibility of using this approach in rape cases.

"Discussions are at an early stage, but we are interested in exploring anything which might help to achieve justice for victims of rape."

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) also confirmed its working group on rape and serious sexual assault was exploring the use of the method, with the Metropolitan Police leading the research.

"The Crown Prosecution Service is an integral part of the Acpo working group and is advising the police on the potential use of this tactic in rape investigations," an Acpo statement added.

'Other priorities'

However, Angie Conroy, policy officer for Rape Crisis, said that rather than concentrating on phone calls or text messages, the improvements that needed to be made were in police response, keeping victims better informed and getting cases to court more often.

Before asking women who have been victims of rape to contact the person who has attacked them, the police must make sure that this evidence can be used in court
Jon Collins
Fawcett Society

"We think if the police and the CPS spent more time investigating cases more thoroughly, it would go a long way to targeting the difficulties we see in the criminal justice system," she said.

Jon Collins, spokesman for the Fawcett Society campaign group, said the tactics could help to "ensure that more rapists are caught and convicted".

"However, before asking women who have been victims of rape to contact the person who has attacked them, the police must make sure that this evidence can be used in court," he said.

"Failing to do so would be an irresponsible step which would increase the demands on victims with nothing in return."

He added that the measures were only likely to be useful in a minority of cases, with broader improvements across the whole criminal justice system also needed "to tackle the recognised failures in the investigation and prosecution of rape cases".

According to the Guardian newspaper, there have been questions about whether pretext phone calls or texts would be permitted under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

The act requires police to caution a suspect ahead of any questioning, warn him that anything he says could be used in evidence and entitles him to have a solicitor present.

SEE ALSO
Cameron urges tougher rape laws
12 Nov 07 |  UK Politics
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