Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Crown Revictimisation Service

[trigger warning]

It's recently come to light that a woman who reported rape has been imprisoned for the crime of being susceptible to witness intimidation. (Technically "perverting the course of justice", but "not being the ideal victim" was also considered by the courts.)

More analysis and rage at, among others: Too much to say for myself, Harpymarx, We mixed our drinks and Shakesville.

One question that's been raised repeatedly, and not answered, is where the investigations and prosecutions for witness intimidation are. Another question is why the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) felt that this met the standards for prosecution.

The standard for prosecution in criminal cases is two-fold. Firstly, it must be in the public interest to prosecute. Secondly, there must be a reasonable (better than even, usually) chance of a conviction (which, since they got a conviction, of course is true).

The first, however, absolutely not. The only segments of the public that this prosecution has served are CPS employees (who get revenge for having their time "wasted") and rapists (who get another reason for their victims not to report it).

The judge, in deciding to impose a custodial sentence, of course reinforces this.

Witness intimidation in rape cases is extremely common. It's also not at all uncommon for victims of rape to decide during the prosecution process that they are unable to go further with it. Even with the best support from the - sadly too rare - police and prosecution teams who actually understand the complex situations, a court case can be extremely stressful.

"Attrition" at the CPS stage is very common - Kelly, Lovett and Regan found that approximately 10-15% of cases that reach the CPS stage end due to the victim withdrawing. This is not an unusual occurence or one that any CPS office will be unfamiliar with. Their paper also notes that "distrust of the police/courts/legal process" is a major reason for deciding not to report rape.

So, why anyone going through with this process - from the police who arrested her in the first place, to the CPS who made the decision to prosecute, to the judge who imposed a harsh custodial sentence - didn't at any point think "wait, what are we doing?", can only be put down to the pervasive misogyny and rape culture throughout society to which the justice system is not immune.

Yet again, the statement is made that (from Detective Inspector Ian Andrews):

I would like to reassure the public that Dyfed-Powys Police, in line with national requirements, treat, and will continue to treat, all allegations of sexual assaults seriously; this involves the use of specially trained officers to support victims during what is a traumatic experience.

I would encourage victims of sexual assaults to contact the police and not suffer in silence. it and you can suffer in prison instead.

This is the second time I've been informed that all rape cases are handled by specially-trained prosecutors, and the second time I've wondered what exactly they're trained in, since it doesn't appear to be "helping victims and getting justice". I'll try to find out.