Friday, 21 January 2011

The Stern Review (2010) - A Report by Baroness Vivien Stern CBE Of An Independant Review Into How Rape Complaints Are Handled By Public Authorities In England And Wales (blog owners opinion).

Blog Owners Opinion.

I think Baroness Stern and her team have done an incredibly good job, and I learned a lot from reading this report.

I thought it was balanced, thoughtful, and educational, particularly in regards to 'The Sexual Offences Act 2003', and the section on false rape allegations.

It would have been very easy for Baroness Stern to not have addressed these issues at all.

As someone who previous to this report, assumed rape was rampant in Britain, I was suprised by the statistics:

'12,129 recorded rapes in 2008/9 - 3,495 prosecutions - 2021 convictions'

I do have some criticisms of The Stern Review, but overall I think Baroness Stern does a good job in refuting some of the misleading statistics submitted, no doubt, by certain womens organisations, particularly the 6 per cent conviction rate myth.

However other dubious statistical claims are allowed to stand as fact. One of those being the British Crime Survey statistics.

[p.32]: 'The most recent survey, The British Crime Survey from 2008/9, show that the lifetime prevalence for rape and attempted rape in those over 16 was nearly one in 24 women'

This is a contentious claim, and its one seized upon by feminists. Look again at the offical figures for 2008/9:

'3,495 prosecutions - 2,021 convictions'.

In the British courts, almost half of all prosecutions do NOT result in a conviction. That means that a large number of those cases of rape tried before a jury, did not pass the criminal standard set by British law to gain a conviction. So in that regard, I Think the figures from The British Crime Survey cannot, I think, be relied upon to give us a an accurate picture as to wether a woman has actually been raped. There have been instances reported in the press where a female has been intoxicated through alcohol, consented to sex at the time, but in the morning had no recollection of events the night before, and thought she must have been raped. Rather than focus on a statistic from a survey (which may infact represent womens own subjective experience's), I think by taking into account the official prosecutions versus conviction figures, we might get a better understanding of the prevalence of rape. So could it be that actually 1 in 50 have been raped? 1 in 100? or more? The problem is that we just dont know. I think results from the British Crime survey, on the specific issue of rape, should be seen in a skeptical light. I dont think we will ever be able to say, with any certainty, exactly how many women have been raped. In that regard, the most responsible thing to do would be to omit survey results like this. We certainly shouldnt be stating them as fact.

Another statistic claimed by feminists, and the Stern Review, is that only 11 per cent of rapes are ever reported. This assertion is based on the fact that on average, only 11 per cent of crime as a whole is thought to be reported to the police. My problem with this 11 per cent figure, is that being raped is a far more serious crime than, say, having your car vandalized. Most people that have their cars vandalized in some way simply claim back on the insurance. They dont report the incident to the police because its not that serious. Most, I expect, think involving the police would be a waste of their time over something they would view as trivial. Rape, on the other hand, must be a very traumatic and life-changing experience and not trivial at all. I could understand some women not wanting to report due to their specific circumstances, and perhaps shame, but with anonymity for the complainant, and the full range of services on offer to vicitms of rape, I find it hard to imagine that almost 90% of women dont even report their rape to the police.

Now, lets take another look at those official figures:

'12,129 recorded rapes in 2008/9 - 3,495 prosecutions - 2021 convictions'

These figures inevitably lead to the question: How can it be, that of 12,129 recorded allegations of rape, only 2,021 result in a conviction?

Its quite clear that something is happening here.

Campaign groups such as WAR (Women Against Rape), who are regularly seen in the British media, and which submitted 'evidence' to The Stern Review, would have us believe that the conviction rate for rape is incredibly low, they say that the conviction rate is 6 per cent, and that its the result of institutional sexism from the legal authorities. They claim that victims of rape are being failed by both the British police force and the judiciary, on the strength of this 6 per cent figure.

While its technically true that the conviction rate for reported rape is 6 per cent, this is misleading, and does not give us the whole picture.

Baroness Stern explains this best:

[p.9]: 'The way this conviction rate figure (6%) is calculated is unusual. Conviction rates are not published or even measured in this way for any other crime so its very difficult to make a comparison. The term 'conviction rate' usually describes the percentage of all the cases brought to court that end with the defendant being convicted. When dealing with rape the term has come to be used in a different way and describes the percentage of all the cases recorded by the police as a rape that end up with someone being convicted of rape.'

Baroness Stern goes on to say:

'The confusion arises from mixing up the conviction rate with the process of attrition. 'Attrition' is the process by which a number of cases of rape initially reported do not proceed, perhaps because the complainant decides not to take the case further, there is not enough evidence to prosecute, or the case is taken to court and the suspect is acquitted.'

WAR do not even acknowledge men that have been acquitted by the courts, as a factor within the attrition rate.

WAR imply that the 94% attrition rate figure is overwhelmingly due to a failing police and legal system.

But how, for instance, can the police be held accountable if a woman decides she wants to withdraw her allegation? The police have no control over that issue. Its a matter for the complainant and her alone.

WAR barely recognise false-allegations within this process of attrition. They claim false-allegations are rare. The studies that have been done on false allegations show a range of figures for false-rape reporting, including Kanin's figure's of 41% and 50%, and McDowell's figure's of 27% rising to possibly 60% on further analysis).

Women are rarely prosecuted for false-allegations because its difficult to prove, unless there is undeniable evidence such as CCTV or mobile phone evidence. Cases without clear-cut evidence that the complainant has made a false-accusation are just dropped by the police, and help make up part of this 'process of attrition'.

So WAR's assertion that the 94 per cent process of attrition grey area (all cases that dont end in a conviction) can be accounted for due to a failing sexist police and judiciary simply does not hold water.

What is clear, is that the vast grey area of the attrition rate includes many different factors, which WAR seem reluctant to accept.

What is not clear, is wether the use of the 6 per cent figure by WAR is a deliberate attempt to mislead the British public, or an honest but ignorant understanding of the subject they espouse to be experts in.

A full 6 months after publication of The Stern Review condemned the use of the misleading 6 per cent figure, WAR were still using it. Here it is on their website in response to an article in the Daily Telegraph dated December 2010:

'the conviction rate is 6.5% in the UK' (Here).

Baroness Stern also says:

[p.46]: 'It is clear to us that the way the six per cent conviction rate figure has been able to dominate the public discourse on rape, without explaination, analysis and context, is extremely unhelpful. There is anecdotal evidence that it may well have discouraged some victims from reporting.'

So WAR, either intentionally or though ignorance (again, I'll leave it up to the reader to decide), may itself have discouraged victims of rape from reporting to the police.

At the same time, they have contributed to the demonization of ALL British men as potential rapists, in the eyes of British women.

Baroness Stern also reports that:

[p.9]: 'Some have found it helpful as a campaigning tool'

It seems WAR have recieved two grants from The National Lottery Fund:

In 2005 they were given a general grant of £192,273.

In 2008 they were given another sum of £10,000, 'to replace their existing website'.

WAR have been awarded public funds and have promoted (either intentionally or through ignorance) misleading figure's on the issue of rape, which has given the British people a false picture of a failing police force and judiciary.

But the 6 per cent figure is not the only dubious statistic WAR uses. At the bottom of their homepage they state '1 in 6 women has been raped.'

The Stern review has this to say:

[p.32]: 'The most recent survey, The British Crime Survey from 2008/9, show that the lifetime prevalence for rape and attempted rape in those over 16 was nearly one in 24 women'

And again, even the 1 in 24 figure is contentious because its a survey, for the reasons I talked about earlier. So where have WAR got the '1 in 6' statistic from? I emailed them to ask them this question 5 days ago, I am still awaiting a reply. Be assured, as soon as I get an answer (if I ever do) I will publish it on this blog..

WAR were even against anonymity for defendants accused of rape.

From the WAR website:

'We are glad the government has been forced to back down on the proposal to give anonymity to men accused of rape. Since the day it was announced we publicly opposed the proposal, and the fury of women all over the country has snowballed' (Here)

In November 2010 the British government ditched a key pledge to grant men charged with rape anonymity untill conviction.

A British newspaper source said that Justice Secretary Ken Clarke had taken 'the path of least resistence', after an outcry from feminist labour MP's, and feminist campaign groups.

The Stern Review Part 1: main conclusions, and the 6% 'conviction rate' myth.

The Stern Review Part 2: 'The Sexual Offences Act' 2003, and false rape allegations.

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