Public authorities’ handling of rape cases to be reviewed

// 22 September 2009

Good news: the Government has announced a review of how rape complaints are handled:

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Solicitor General Vera Baird today announced a review into how rape complaints are handled from when a rape is first disclosed until the court reaches a verdict.

The review, led by Baroness Stern, will look in particular at how public authorities (including the police, local authorities, health providers, the Crown Prosecution Service, etc) not only respond individually to rape complaints, but how they interact with each other, as well as professionals’ attitudes to rape and evidence from the victims.

The Stern Review will make recommendations on, among other things, how to encourage more victims to report rape; ensure that more cases progress further through the criminal justice system; fairly increase conviction rates; and build satisfaction and confidence in how rape complaints are handled

The Stern Review will start immediately, and will report back early in the new year to the Minister for Women and Equality, the Home Secretary, the Solicitor General, and the Minister with responsibility for victims at the Ministry of Justice.

The Fawcett Society responded:

“The Fawcett Society welcomes the Government announcement of a review of the handling of rape complaints. A comprehensive review into the failings of the current system is urgently needed. It is a national scandal that thousands of rape victims have no access to justice, and frequently face a culture of disbelief, delayed responses which may lead to the loss of vital evidence and a lack of support services.

“However, words will need to be followed up with action. The telling fact will be whether the recommendations of the review are followed up with committed and consistent action which results in real cultural change within the criminal justice system.”

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 22 September 2009 at 2:45 pm

The remit for this review however, excludes investigating female rape survivors’ experiences of the law. This is a major oversight on the part of central government, given that female survivors of male sexual violence experience disbelief and scepticism not only from police and society but also the legal system and how courts enact and administer the legal process.

Furthermore, reviews have been undertaken in the past and the same reasons are ‘re-discovered.’ Will this again be a case of ‘investigation and no further action.’ Or is it just more ‘window dressing’ on behalf of central government since addressing the multiple ways female survivors of male sexual violence are dismissed/subjected to minute examination of their character etc. does require radical change. Not promises, promises and yet more empty promises.

Josie // Posted 22 September 2009 at 3:00 pm

I have got to say I just do not understand the Harriet Harman backlash – I think she’s wonderful. So many people, myself included, are constantly moaning about politicians being all mouth and no trousers as it were, whereas she comes across as utterly determined to make a difference. I guess that’s just too scary for some people. I for one hope she will be around for a long time to come!

Catherine Redfern // Posted 22 September 2009 at 3:21 pm

Well, it says that the review will include, and I quote, “evidence from the victims” as well as organisations. So it seems very likely that the points you mention will be raised. (In response to Jennifer)

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