In England and Wales, rape juries are more likely to convict than acquit, study says

If you are charged with rape and tried by a jury, you are more likely to be convicted than you were 15 years ago, according to an academic study by researchers at University College London (UCL). .

The study found that jury conviction rates have increased from 55% to 75% since 2007.

The survey was commissioned by then-Chairman of the Queen’s Bench Division (now King’s Bench Division), Sir Brian Revson, after more than 16,000 signatures. petition In 2018, it called for all rape trial jurors to undergo “compulsory training on rape myths.”

Petitioner said:

But a team at UCL, led by Professor Cheryl Thomas, analyzed thousands of rape trials and found no evidence that jurors were biased against rape complainants.

Jurors in England and Wales are more likely to convict defendants than to acquit them, a pattern consistent over the past 15 years, according to the report.

Overall confidence plummets

The conviction rate for all rape cases dropped to 1.6%. This means that one of her about 60 people accused of rape on a formal complaint to the police will eventually be convicted.

Last July, rape prosecutions fell to record lows in England and Wales.

From 2020 to 2021, police recorded 67,125 rape allegations, but only 1,557 were prosecuted.

Earlier this month, Crown Prosecutor’s Office (CPS) Chief Inspector Andrew Cayley (KC) said there was a shortage of senior barristers and too many inexperienced and junior prosecutors were thrown into the tail end. , said he was being asked to undertake a rape case. .

UCL research published in Criminal Law Review (pdf) examined all defendant petitions and jury verdicts made at Crown Court in England and Wales between 2007 and 2021.

An analysis of 68,863 jury verdicts found a 75% jury conviction rate for rape, up 20% from 2007.

Compared to acquittal, the odds of conviction were the same regardless of the age or gender of the rape allegor.

The report also said that the “sharp decline” in the number of people prosecuted for rape between 2016 and 2020 was part of a “systematic” decline in prosecutions for all crimes. clarified.

85% of rape defendants plead not guilty

Researchers also found that rape is a criminal offense, with the highest percentage of pleas to be “not guilty” at 85%, also unchanged in the last 15 years.

Juries also acquit young men of rape more often than older men, and the report notes that this is due to “a perception that juries are particularly reluctant to convict young men of rape.” It is in contrast to,” he said.

Mr Thomas said: They are important to all rape complainants. Knowing the truth about jury decision-making in rape cases is a reluctance to let the case go to trial because they mistakenly believe that jurors are unwilling to convict a defendant in a rape case. It is important for people who may be sensitive.

She added: However, the jury is not responsible for this. They can only decide the cases charged to them, and this study shows that rape allegors are more likely to get a conviction if they can present evidence to a jury.

Ash Patel, Justice Program Director, Nuffield FoundationThe person who funded this research said: “There is definitely a crisis in how serious sexual assault and rape cases are handled by the criminal justice system.”

Jurors are not ‘overly lenient’ in rape cases

“But this groundbreaking study clearly shows that these issues are neither started nor ended by a jury. Contrary to the view of many, this study “It suggests that juries weren’t overly lenient in their decisions in rape cases, with more convictions than acquittals in recent years, and a significantly higher rate of convictions,” Patel said.

Deniz Uğur, deputy director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the numbers should be treated with caution.

he said Telegraph: “Only 1.6% of cases lead to prosecution or subpoenas, and the vast majority of rape cases are often due to informed police and CPS decisions based on victim blaming, discrimination, and rape myths. will not be brought to court in the first place.”

“For this reason, looking primarily at juror conviction rates does not give a complete picture of how our justice system is responding to rape,” he added.

The term “rape myth” refers to misconceptions about the amount of violence and severity of physical injury that rape victims are likely to suffer during an assault, especially in intimate settings.