Rape and Justice in Ireland
Yesterday (as reported in the Irish Times) saw the publication of Rape and Justice in Ireland, a Rape Crisis Network of Ireland book, written by Conor Hanly of NUIG with Dr. Deirdre Healy and Stacey Scriver.
The book is the result of a four‐year study into the process of prosecuting rape cases in Ireland, which sought to unpack the reasons for the number and proportion of cases that fail to reach court and result in a guilty verdict. It found that approximately one third of rape cases reported to the Gardaí are prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The use and prevalence of alcohol, poor reactions from the Gardaí and evidential problems have been highlighted as contributing to this high attrition rate.
Previous research has indicated that the extent of victimisation in Ireland for sexual offences is remarkably high. The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland Report, published in 2002, indicated that some 42% of women and 28% of men reported sexual abuse or assault in their lifetime, with ten per cent of women and three per cent of men experiencing penetrative abuse. In addition to and compounding the problematic levels of victimisation, disclosure of sexual violence to professionals was found to be low. In the context of adult sexual assault, only one per cent of men and 7.8% of women reported their experiences to the Gardaí, with slighter higher rates of reporting to medical professionals and counsellors/therapists. This trend of low reporting was reiterated by the Rape Crisis Network in 2007. Moreover, “approximately 1% of these incidents [of sexual offence] will end in conviction with 95% of cases reported to the Gardaí falling out of the system prior to any adjudication by the courts.” The declining detection rate for sexual offences in general is also cause for concern, given that it has fallen from 62% in 2003 to 55% in 2007. These figures emphasise the significance of the book Rape and Justice in Ireland which explores exactly why so many rape cases are lost from the criminal justice system.
However, on a more positive note, the detection rates for rape offences increased from 44.2% in 2003 to 57.5% in 2007. Moreover, once cases are reported and detected, the prosecution rates are favourable. The 2007 Annual Report of the Director of Public Prosecutions indicates that of non-indictable sexual offences prosecuted in the Central Criminal Court percentage of convictions 86% resulted in conviction in 2006, 90% in 2005 and 93% in 2004. For cases prosecuted on indictment in the Central Criminal Court the conviction rates for rape for the same years were 82, 85 and 81% respectively, for attempted rape it stood at 100% each year, and for aggravated sexual assault it was 100% in 2006 and 2005, and 50% in 2004. This suggests that improvements at the “front end” of the criminal justice process may be particularly pertinient in improving the prosecution and conviction rate for rape and other sexual offences. This echoes one key recommendation of Rape and Justice in Ireland that Gardaí need to keep in regular contact with rape complainants, and that no attempts should be made to discourage victims from proceeding.