Research: One third of rape complaints reaches court

Just one in three rapes reported to gardaí make it to court, new research claims.

Cases where women are attacked by someone they know are less likely to be prosecuted than assaults in public by a stranger, despite being more common.

The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) study found authorities blamed lack of evidence as the main reason for dropping prosecutions.

But Fiona Neary, RCNI executive director, said a large number of cases were not being pursued by authorities because they did not fit the ’rape stereotype’.

“The most common rape is committed in a private place by an individual known to the victim and the time lapse in reporting is greater than one hour,” Ms Neary said.

“However, this type of case is less likely to be prosecuted than the uncommon situation where the complainant is attacked by a stranger in a public place and she reports immediately.

“Victims, gardai, the DPP and, in turn, possibly juries, are measuring the credibility of a rape against a narrow stereotype.”

The four-year Rape and Justice in Ireland study also found 40% of victims who reported their ordeal to gardaí considered dropping the complaint because of the garda reaction.

RCNI said victims who have taken drink were also less likely to be believed by gardaí when reporting the crime.

“Alcohol is not an excuse for rape,” Ms Neary said.

“Neither can it be an excuse for recklessness as to consent.

“Rape is still rape when alcohol is a factor, but this research finds that alcohol often means the rape does not count. This is unacceptable.

“The evidence shows that until such time as Ireland tackles its binge drinking culture, our legal system must develop greater expertise in investigating and prosecuting rape cases where alcohol is a factor.”

The study was unveiled during a one-day conference attended by a range of key speakers.

Key findings of the Rape and Justice in Ireland report include:

:: Convictions are more likely when a rape fits a narrow stereotype of ’real rape’ – someone being attacked in a public place by a stranger.

:: 70 in every 100 rape cases are dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions, who only prosecutes one in every three cases.

:: 40% of those who made a report seriously considered withdrawing their complaint because of poor reaction by the gardaí. Twenty-one were encouraged to withdraw, almost half of these following negative comments from gardaí.

:: 76% of suspects had taken alcohol on the date of the offence. RCNI said there was a very strong indication that alcohol consumption is implicated in rape.

The RCNI report also published 26 recommendations across reporting, investigation, prosecution and court proceedings of rape cases.

These include suggestions that an accused person should be forbidden under law from cross-examining the complainant and the judge should be obliged to remind juries that a conclusion that the complainant acted foolishly does not make them responsible for the rape.

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