Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Police 'sceptical of rape victims from poor areas'

Model posing as a rape victim
The report found some victims were made to feel shame by officials

Police are less likely to believe a rape victim if she lives in a deprived area, according to a report.

The report, "Rape: The Victim Experience Review", used interviews and focus groups with victims, police officers and prosecutors.

Campaigner and report author Sara Payne found victims who had been drinking, had criminal histories or previously made allegations could face scepticism.

She concluded that "effective" policies are "not being universally adhered to".

The review of how the criminal justice system deals with rape complaints identified a number of inconsistencies.

It found victims were often made to feel "ashamed and responsible" when they came into contact with official agencies and called for a campaign to change attitudes and educate the public about rape.

Victims of any crime need to feel that they are taken seriously and that they are supported to overcome the impact a crime has had on them
Sara Payne

It also said women who do not appear visibly upset by their ordeal may also have their rape allegations questioned.

Some serving police officers said some of their colleagues did not deal with allegations in the way they should.

The report stated: "Officers... can be sceptical of victims for numerous reasons, such as when the victim had been drinking, had made previous allegations, were from a certain area, had an offending history themselves, or simply because they did not behave in the way they would expect a victim to behave."

Mrs Payne urged senior officers and prosecutors to crack down on "poor attitudes", and said there was a need for adequate training on how to deal with victims.

Victim support

The report's author called for funding for rape help centres and for schools to encourage "healthy relationships".

Mrs Payne said: "There is inconsistent treatment of victims of rape by criminal justice agencies.

"Everyone who contributed to the review broadly agreed that effective policy and procedures were in place but that they are not being universally adhered to.

"Victims of any crime need to feel that they are taken seriously and that they are supported to overcome the impact a crime has had on them."

In January Mrs Payne was appointed to the one-year post of Victims' Champion to provide an independent voice to the more than 1.5 million victims and witnesses of crime each year.

Mrs Payne's daughter Sarah, eight, was murdered by a paedophile.



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