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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 July 2006, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Dismay over rape conviction rate
Distressed woman
More than 180 rapes have been reported in the area since 1996
The director of the south of Scotland's Rape Crisis Centre has expressed shock and surprise over figures on rape convictions.

Dumfries and Galloway came last out of Scotland's eight police forces, with seven of 187 rapes reported since 1996 resulting in convictions.

In 2004/05, none of the 20 reported rapes in the area led to a conviction.

Dumfries and Galloway Police said it hoped a Crown Office review would assist with the prosecution of rape.

Iraina McGroarty, director of the Dumfries-based centre, told the BBC Scotland news website the figures were "surprising, distressing and quite shocking".

They revealed a 3.7% conviction rate in the area since 1996, lower than the current national rate of 4.3%.

This is a difficult area where evidence is not always clear or easy to gather
Dumfries and Galloway Police

"These figures mustn't put women off reporting rape to the police," she said.

"Any decisions women make to come forward have to be based on factors in their own life and not influenced by something like this."

Mrs McGroarty said a fifth of the centre's caseload dealt with recent reported rapes and 80% related to those in the past.

"I am sure the police statistics would mirror ours," she said.

"Therefore these cases are always going to be hard to find evidence for because of the exactitude of the legal system and the need for two bits of corroborative evidence."

Mrs McGroarty said she was not optimistic that a review of how rapes are investigated and prosecuted, which was announced last month, would alter the conviction rate.

'Traumatic experience'

"I think there are some good things that will come out of the review, such as the extension of the definition of rape and the fact it will encompass men," she said.

"But it seems to me that it all pivots on the need for two bits of corroborative evidence.

"Until that changes, I'm not sure conviction rate will dramatically change."

A Dumfries and Galloway Police spokesperson said: "This is a difficult area where evidence is not always clear or easy to gather.

"The Crown Office recently completed a review of the approach to investigating rape and we hope that any changes will assist with the investigation, reporting and prosecution of this type of crime.

"Women who are assaulted or raped are very vulnerable and I would like to assure them that when they report such a crime to this force they will be dealt with by professional, highly trained officers who will treat them with respect throughout what is a traumatic experience.

"These officers work closely with support agencies to ensure that the strain of the experience is minimised."

'Sufficient evidence'

A Crown Office spokesman said it was not valid to try to calculate a conviction rate from the number of cases reported, rather than the number of cases prosecuted.

"Prosecutors can only take a case to court where there is sufficient evidence in law, and it is then for the jury to decide whether to convict or acquit the accused," he said.

"Where we do prosecute for rape there is a conviction in 35% of cases.

"All decisions to prosecute are taken by senior lawyers in Edinburgh, who also prosecute the cases in the High Court, so any suggestion of regional variation is also invalid."




SEE ALSO
Rape procedures overhaul outlined
14 Jun 06 |  Scotland
Rape claims continue to increase
03 Jun 06 |  Scotland
Rape law change plan put forward
30 Jan 06 |  Scotland

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