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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 00:05 GMT 01:05 UK
'Postcode lottery' in rape cases
Distressed woman
Campaigners say women need to have confidence in the system
Rape victims suffer wide variations in conviction levels depending on where they live, according to a report.

The Fawcett Commission report on Women and the Criminal Justice System identified regional variations across England and Wales.

Just under 14% of all rape cases in Northants lead to a conviction compared to just under one per cent in Gloucs.

In spite of some good work there is an inconsistent approach to violence against women, the report states.

We need an integrated approach that gives women all over the country confidence
Vera Baird QC MP

The commission calls for a new integrated approach to address all forms of violence against women.

It wants to prevent violence through education and public information campaigns and support victims by ensuring all public services worked together.

Chairwoman Vera Baird QC MP said: "It's unacceptable that a rape victim's chances of getting justice depend on where she lives.

"We need an integrated approach that gives women all over the country confidence in the system, delivers justice and prevents violence in the first place."

The best areas, apart from Northants, were Cumbria, South Wales and South Yorkshire.

Apart from Gloucestershire, the worst performers were Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Humberside and Hampshire.

REGIONAL CONVICTION RATES
The best
Northants: 13.79%
Cumbria: 12.79%
South Wales: 12.18%
South Yorkshire: 10.74%
The worst
Gloucestershire: 0.86%
Suffolk: 1.6%
Cambs: 1.75%
Humberside: 2.85%

Det Chief Insp John Quinton, of Suffolk Constabulary told the BBC Suffolk remains a safe place to live.

"The increase in the number of crimes being reported may be due the increase in public confidence in the Police and the Criminal Justice System," he said.

The report highlighted that in many areas rape crisis centres do not exist or rape victims are facing waiting lists of many months.

Det Supt Larry Ennis from Northants police, which has the best rate of rape conviction in the country, said the force has extremely close links with Victim Support, who offer assistance to the victims of crime even if they don't press charges.

The Fawcett Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice System was set up in 2003 to look at the way women are treated as victims, offenders and practitioners in the system.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke is due to speak at the launch of the report later on Thursday.


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