Monday, 15 February 2010

Reply from my MP

Here's the reply from my MP regarding the recent botched rape trial.

[trigger warning]

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Thank you for your correspondence regarding how rape cases are handled by the courts. My previous letter to you on this subject outlined the progress has been made in this area. Convictions for rape and sexual assault increased by over 50 per cent between 1997 and 2007. Unfortunately, however, only 15 per cent of rapes come to the attention of the police (the rest remain unreported) and 80 per cent of reported cases do not get to court. These figures are extremely concerning and highlight how much more there remains to do.

Violence against women and rape are issues that I feel strongly about. At the end of November last year I took part in the 'Reclaim the Night' event organised by the TUC. This was a march through the streets of Durham that was attended by over 100 people in support of victims of domestic violence and rape, after which I gave a speech against violence towards women.

Baroness Stern is currently leading an independent review into the way that rape complaints are handled by the public authorities. The review is examining the whole process of a rape complaint fromthe moment it is first disclosed until the court has reached a verdict. It is focussing on the way that key agencies involved in rape complaints, i.e. the police, health services, local authorities and Crown Prosecution Service, can work more effectively together to improve a complainant's treatment.

The Review is due to report in early March, and its recommendations will focus upon such issues as how to ensure better treatment of rape complainants, how to encourage more victims of rape to report the crime, how to ensure that cases progress further through the criminal justics system, and how confidence can be built in the way that complaints are handled.

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This is the review that is currently nearing completion.

One of the big things that the letter doesn't mention, and doesn't appear to be in the scope of the review - and on which the government has done very little of any use - is prevention. Not the sort of "prevention" that survey after survey shows that a large proportion of the public thinks that the victims should have done, but actual work on reducing the attitudes that lead to those survey results, reducing the number of potential perpetrators, and trying to erode the cultural effects that lead to that.

On that approach, this campaign might be a good start, but won't have much effect on its own. Edit to add: Given how strongly - and early - embedded is the idea that violence against women is justified and normal, it's going to be extremely difficult.