Monday, 28 June 2010

No, really, this helps no-one.

[trigger warning]

Hannah Mudge has searched through all reports of false accusations in the Daily Mail in the last couple of years. They're getting more commonplace.

It also gives a large sample of recorded false accusations, that can be checked through to see if any of the cases mentioned were previously reported in the press.

(As you'd expect, almost all of them were not)

Some of the articles don't say who was accused. I've tried to look for reporting of the cases in other papers, and if that didn't work, looked for reporting of cases matching what details are available. I've excluded the entries from Hannah's list where the Daily Mail claims that the claim was false on the basis of an acquittal (which I don't believe is always sufficient evidence that the claim is false, even if it is sufficient to prove that the defendant did not commit rape) - this does not remove many cases. I have included cases where the false allegation trial was ongoing even when I was unable to find confirmation that the defendant in the false allegation trial was convicted.

In only one of these cases - including some where the defendant was convicted and later released after an appeal - was the original rape case reported on in the press, so it doesn't significantly change the results to exclude them.

Reported date (from Hannah's list)Date of verdict different?Rape case reported before?Notes
25 June 2010NoNo
18 June 2010NoNo
18 June 2010Yes - 1999/2006No
11 June 2010NoNo
8 June 2010NoNo suspects
2 June 2010 case 1NoNo
2 June 2010 case 2Yes - 2006/8No
25 May 2010--Duplicate of 2 June 2010 report
10 May 2010NoNo
5 March 2010NoNoGail Sherwood
16 February 2010NoNo
19 January 2010NoNo
5 December 2009NoNo
7 November 2009NoNo
6 November 2009NoNo
1 November 2009NoOnce in a newswire, but no suspects named
14 August 2009-- Duplicate of 16 February 2010 report
22 July 2009NoNo
3 July 2009NoNo
2 July 2009NoOnce, but before any suspects found
30 June 2009NoNo
21 May 2009*NoConviction of accuser not reported previously
23 December 2008NoNo
17 September 2008NoNo
29 August 2008NoNo
25 August 2008NoNo
18 August 2008NoNo
29 July 2008NoNo
8 April 2008NoYes, post arrest, one "in brief" entry in local paper
7 March 2008NoNo
12 February 2008NoNo
13 November 2007NoNo
14 June 2007NoNo
12 May 2007NoNo
23 April 2007NoNo
24 March 2007NoNo
16 March 2007NoNo

So of the 37 cases where someone was charged with making a false allegation, only 1 was reported in a way that named the suspected rapist, and that briefly in a local paper (which didn't get a mention when the suspect was later talking about the effect on his life). This is not that surprising - in most of the cases no-one was charged (though several were arrested), which significantly reduces the chances of cases reaching the attention of the media.

The estimate of slightly more than one a year, which I thought was using generous assumptions to begin with, now looks even less likely - I was assuming that only about 4% of rape cases would be reported, almost all post-arrest. It appears from this that of the sub-sample of false allegations, the figure may be even lower than that - around 2.5%, and almost all post-charge. That reduces the number of people likely to be helped after a false allegation by the government proposals to one every three or four years (and again, these stories all show that it's not the non-existent press attention that causes the harm to people who are falsely accused).

So, as expected, it's a proposal that helps no-one but could harm thousands.

Of course, when a rape defendant is granted anonymity, the Daily Mail takes a very different line.