Beyond Reasonable Doubt ?

Anyone who is interested in the virtuous administration of  justice and the impartiality of such a system adheres to the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

It is one of the few weapons democracies’ have to defend the individual against the tyranny of the state and institutionalised despotism.

Those who are ‘old school’ can remember hangings, those of James Hanratty and Peter Allen, for instance. In those days the common consensus was that:

“Far better to let 9 guilty men go free than hang an innocent man”

But today both homicide and rape  carry similar tariffs. For either offence a sentence of 7 years or ‘life’, ie around 15 years, is not uncommon. The meticulous thoroughnesses once reserved for capital offences, namely murders, should logically now be extended to rape. But is it ?

With the introduction of life sentences washed away the need for judicial thoroughness and the rigour demanded for judicial precision has been permanently lost. No longer did anyone’s life hang on a thread. The resulting intelletual fudge means that today Hanratty would have been convicted on far flimsier evidence than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” benchmark standard of 1963.  (See Roy Burnett, who was freed in April 2000, aged 56, after serving almost 15 years for an alleged brutal rape he did not commit. See also Appendix A).

In the matter of anonymity for rape defendants politicians have long made impartiality impossible for this one crime– and deliberately so . The criterion of “beyond a reasonable doubt” has been utterly compromised and adulterated by political lobby groups to the point where it is impossible to give a man charged with rape the ‘benefit of the doubt.

Approach any female MP from Anne Widdecombe (Cons) to Yvette Cooper (Lab) and the response is the same; they believe 101% that:

“. .. . .supporting disclosure of the defendants name encourages other female rape victims to come forward.”

So let’s have a closer look at that supposition.

The implication is that women are intimidated, or petrified, or easily deterred from reporting rape and sexual assaults to the police – or somehow in some other way made to feel nervous.

The number of rape allegations reported by the police each year is not in the hundred but in the thousands (see Fig 1). Indeed, the last time rape allegations reported to the police totalled less than a thousands was long ago in 1973 when there were 998 allegations made.

Fig 1.

In 1974 the 1,000 barrier was broken with 1,052 rape allegations being made to the police. Today, 2010 the figure is in the region of 14,000 allegations per annum.


Why, no one ever seems to ask, did rapes take off in 1984 ? And why have they never ceased to increase ?

Why do other countries have stable or declining trend lines for reported rapes but  Britan has one that climbs ever upwards ? For instance, US rape data (see Fig 2 right) continues to fall between 1973 and 2007.

Fig 2.

By no measure and by no stretch of the imagination can this be interpreted as women being intimidated, or petrified, or easily deterred. In fact, there are financial rewards (compensation) for making rape allegations ranging from £7,500 to £22,000 per female claimant, courtesy of the tax-payer.

From information gleaned form official statistics we can see that in 1975 there were 1,040 ‘reported’ rapes and 409 of these went to trial (Fig 3). [1] The remainder, 631, were cases where the charges were dropped or where there was a lack of evidence or an insufficiently robust amount to present to a judge.

 The numbers coming to trial altered only slightly by the mid 1980s compared with the number of reported rapes the latter had doubled but the numbers coming to trail had increased by only about 100.

 The most significant change is seen in the period from the 1980s to 2003 (see Fig 3).

In this 20 year period, allegation of rape made to the police soar from 1,800 a years to 13,000 pa.

Left: Fig 3

By 2003 the level of allegations was at 13,000 pa and although ‘coming to trial’ numbers had swollen a little to 1,063, the number of ‘convictions‘ remained only slightly higher than in 1995 (578 v 710).

The very point made by anti rape anonymity lobby is precisely their undoing.

They complain that the conviction rate is only 6% – and measured this way they might have a superficial point. However, the deeper meaning to these number is that women are demonstrably ‘not afraid’ to come forward to report rapes, even if so few prove to have enough evidence to convince a jury.

Nor is it purel;y the crime  of rape that is falling. As Fig 4 shows, all violent crimes in the US are falling.

Fig 4

In a letter from the Home Office (April 8th 2002), the question of anonymity was addressed in these terms; save for juvenile cases where reporting restrictions are imposed the:

“ . . . . only other major exception is that the identity of the victim (whether male or female) is protected where an allegation of rape or some other serious sexual offence is made. . . . . Not only does this protect the victim from hurtful publicity but it is designed to improve the administration of justice by encouraging them to report such crimes to ensure that rapists and other serious sex offenders do not escape prosecution.

NB. But as we have seen in reent years even juvenile cases are not spared publicity when the charge is rape of a female.

For 10 years or more this has been the standard defence and official position of the Home Office but in 2009 another Home Office they accepted that there is a 2nd victim in rape cases – those who are falsely accused.

Further on the 2002 Home Office letter states:

“However, the criminal justice system operates on the system of openness, which is considered to be a vital ingredient in maintaining integrity and public confidence, and in encouraging other victims to come forward. Restrictions on this openness have to be fully justified and can only be granted in very exceptional circumstances.”

Those restrictions seem to have become both automatic and permanent. If they do encourage other victims to come forward they appear few in number for most, the 11628, are fraudulent or marginal (13,441 less 1,813 =  11,628).

The John Warboys case (April 2009) is often cited as an example of where other women came forward. But the reality is quite different. It was the police who failed to link together the common patterns that allowed this man to commit sexual assaults on 12 women, and one rape, not 19 rapes as is sometime mentioned in reports. [2]

Justification for lop-sided anonymity is dealt with in this manner:

“Anonymity for such complainants is designed not only to protect them from hurtful publicity for their sake alone but also to encourage victims of sexual assault to report the offence and co-operate with a prosecution. These arguments clearly do not apply in the case of the accused.  The equality of treatment should be between all defendants, not between the victim and the defendant.”

Under the Contempt of Court Act 1981, courts already have the power to act to avoid publicity or where publicity might substantially risk prejudicing a fair trial. Court can also order a postponement of the publication of any of its proceedings for whatever period it considers necessary. Along with these powers goes the power to prohibit publication of the name (or identification) of anyone connected to the case.

To round off their position the 2002 Home Office letter refers to the cost and number (2%) of the estimated number for false rape allegations:

New Scotland Yard has informed [that] they are unable to supply an estimated cost due to the number of factors involved [i.e. of false rape allegations]. However, researchers have estimated that false complaints account for only 2% of the rape statistics, which is about the same percentage as for many other crimes.

The Dark Side

The dark subject of rape and the much darker subject of false allegations of rape are long overdue an objective re-assessment. It is ironical that in 2002 the graph below was produced showing the rape conviction figures internatioanlly and for a selected number of countries, eg Italy and Greece. The concern then identified as a possible flaw in English accounting for rape statistics remains valid to this day. There is no differnce between what we see in Fig 1 (above) and and the contents of  Fig 5, below.

Fig 5

Governments have allegedly undertaken such ‘objective’ reviews but an examination of participants reveals a far from balanced reviewing panel, e.g. Liz Kelly writing on both rape and Domestic Violence.

It might reasonably be assumed that all false allegation cases result in charges of perjury being laid before the complainant who made the false allegation and gave false evidence to the court. However, the reality is very different. The number of perjury cases, as shown in the Table below, circa 200 per annum is far smaller than the number of false allegations made (Fig 6).

In addition it is difficult to initiate a prosecution as the victim of the charge finds that the court is reluctant to act and the police will not act unless the court approves of it. There are, I am sure, very sound technical reasons to explain away this situation but to poor Mr., Joe Public this is how it looks.

Fig 6

In more recent times (2008 – 2010) judges have been more inclined to punish those that make false rape allegations. Sometimes it is probation, a suspended sentence but occasionally it is 2 years for “perverting the course of justice.”

‘Perverting the Course of Justice’ is an indictable Common Law offence but perjury is statute law and an indictable offence under the Perjury Act 1911 (sect 1). [3]

The maximum sentence for perjury is 7 years imprisonment – there is no guidance (i.e. min or max) for perverting the course of justice.

A list of reference cases is given in the Appendix  below.

For political reasons, that remain a mystery, the major political parties have chosen to ignore or side with the polite mainstream that desperately wants to wish this messy topic to just go away.

In matters of sexual offending and false allegations of sexual offending there is no political mileage for being radical; for seeking to tackle a decrepit and arcane regime with an enlightened approach. Everyone seems happy with the extraordinary costs of compensation and the concomitant expense of custodial prison sentences, prison staff, and prison building programmes.

The following extract is from the Foreword written by Dennis V.  Lindley for Prof Mervyn Stone’s book “Failing to Figure; Whitehall’s costly neglect of statistical reasoning”, [4] itself an indictment of how governments choose to absent themselves from governing:

“Let  me  conclude  this  foreword  by  introducing  a  personal  note.  In  my  early  research  work,  I  had  made  what  appeared  to  be  an  innocuous  assumption  and  the  results,  both  theoretical  and  practical,  that  sprang  from  it  appeared  sound.  Stone  came  along  and  pointed  out  that  the  assumption  was  unsound.  He  provided  an  ingenious  counter‐example,  where  the  assumption  led  to  transparent  nonsense.  This  upset  me  greatly  and  for  days  I  struggled  to  find  a  flaw  in  his  work.  Reluctantly  I  came  to  the  conclusion  that  there  was  none:  he  was  right  and  I  was  wrong.  My  results  needed  amendment  but  it  was  found  that,  with  the  assumption  modified  to  take  account  of  the  counter‐example  and  the  principle  it  involved,  the  new  results  were  better  than  the  old.”

This paper seeks to question similar cosy assumptions and hopes to unveil to the reader some of the ‘transparent nonsense’ that so bedevils this subject.  

Appendix A

Over the years . . . .

Leslie Warren

Leslie Warren spent two years in jail for raping an ex-girlfriend. In March 2003 his conviction was quashed after the court heard that a detective had failed to pass on information about false allegations the woman had made against other men. She later admitted she had lied.


Andrew Bond

In 2002, rape charges against Andrew Bond were dropped after CCTV footage was discovered which showed his accuser fabricating evidence against him.


Austen Donnellan

In 1993, student Austen Donnellan was cleared of date rape after the jury heard that his accuser had been so drunk that she could hardly walk.


Stephen McLaughlin

Worst of all, in 1996 Stephen McLaughlin was accused of rape by a former girlfriend. She later admitted that she had made up the story and was prosecuted. But 18 months later, having never recovered from the shock of the accusation, he drove into a forest and gassed himself to death.


The parliamentary response to these travesties is limited to Charles Clarke MP, replying on behalf of Lord Bassam of the Home Office, that the Gov’t accepts “… the very great distress and discomfort that is often experienced by those wrongly accused or charged with a sex offence ….”.

Appendix B

Dealing with false allegations of rape

 Perjury or Perverting ?

Perverting the Course of Justice is a Common Law offence but Perjury is statute law and an indictable offence under the Perjury Act 1911 (sect 1). Perjury carries a 7 year maximum sentence whereas perverting the course of justice has no set tariff.

See CPS Sentencing Manual (April 2010)

See also;

 False allegations of rape.  

  • R v Merritt [2006] 1 Cr. App. R.(S.) 105 reviewed authorities.  Husband accused and held in custody for 9 hours; sentence reduced to 4 months imprisonment.
  • R v Fletcher [2006] 2 Cr. App. R. (S.) 24.  False allegation led to victim being in police custody for 17 hours and waiting 3 months before being told that no further action would be taken; 2 years imprisonment upheld.
  •  R v Beeton [2009] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 46.  Appellant made false allegations of rape against two young men, in respect of one over a period of months and having a profound effect upon him.  Sentence reduced to three years imprisonment.
  • R v McKenning [2009] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 106.  False allegation of rape, for which a man was in custody for 27 hours and left in suspense for three months.  Every false allegation of rape makes the offence harder to prove and, rightly concerned to avoid the conviction of an innocent man, a jury may find itself unable to be sufficiently sure to return a guilty verdict.  Two years imprisonment upheld.

Irony or double standards ?

R. v Hall [2007] 2 Cr.App.R.(S.) 42
The appellant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He and others indulged over months in very serious and sustained attempts to threaten and intimidate a 15-year-old girl due to give evidence at his trial for a sexual offence against her.  Sentence of seven and a half years imprisonment upheld.

Had this person (Hall) not engaged in attempting to pervert the course of justice he might only have had a 5 year or less sentence.

If he can go to jail for 7 years for perverting the course of justice why can’t this be extended to women ?

[1] My apologies for missing data but the manner which the Gov’t presents information is not consistent overtime.


Investigating and Detecting Rape

by Robert Whiston  FRSA   Oct 3rd 2010

Investigating and detecting recorded offences of rape” is one of numerous reports into rape published by the Home Office (they appear obsessed with the subject !).  

It was as long ago as 2002 that police, in a research paper published by the Home Office, conceded that it would be more than a good idea if society improved its understanding of criminal careers. In particular, it thought that exploring “the previous criminal histories of those who had been convicted of murder or serious sexual assault (SSA)” might prove fruitful.[1]

However, this idea fell instantly onto stony ground and every research paper since has focused purely and relentlessly on putting more rapists in jail and on restricting a defendant’s human right to a fair trial when accused of rape .

The raison d’être for this 2007 report (Investigating and detecting recorded offences of rape), was to understand the “reasons behind the decline in recorded detection rates for rape since 1997” and “why marked variations in detection rates exist in different forces”.

The unspoken assumption here is that there should be more ‘detections’ and more convictions as the reported of rapes increase. No thought is given to the fact that proof has to be first established to get convictions rates to increase.

As regards marked variations there seems to be an ignorance of the different types of people and demographics that different policies forces encounter. We should not expect, nor should there be any compulsion to standardise the rate of ‘reported’ rapes across the country. 

One section entitled ‘Attrition of cases through the criminal justice system’ informs us that in a sample of 676 rape cases 15% were ‘no crimed.’ So broadly speaking the number of false allegations, if the sample is representative, is 15%. 

However, reporting the levels of false allegations was not the purpose of the report and with a little ingenuity and appropriate pressure placed on the police – if they were at all involved – the more appropriate for HO and feminist purposes figure was reduce to 8%.

We are told that the police were happy that this 8% figure represented the number of ‘false allegations’, and tellingly by “the majority through the victim’s [own] admission that this was the case.” One can’t wondering why they wouldn’t be pleased and acquiesce if it got the searchlight off them faster than if they had contended the figures.

Table 4.1, taken from the report is most interesting in displaying no-crimed events. It is reproduced here (right).

Of the false allegations (i.e. 8% or 15%), 86% of them could be verified as having not taken place. This is the portion of the chart opposite coloured Blue. The next largest segment in the no-crimed total is where the ‘victim’ failed to substantiate the allegation.

Added together this 6% of allegation which could not be substantiated brings the total to 92%. A further 5% of alleged rape offences took place in another police forces jurisdiction (making 97%).

As an aside, it is worth noting at this point that by Sept 2010 correspondence showed the Home Office had accepted that being falsely accused created  a second victim. A minor point perhaps but indicative of a shift of thinking even within the Home Office.

The analysis of  Tble 4.1 reveals this breakdown:

  • Verifiable information that no crime took place      (86%)
  • Victim failed to substantiate the allegation                (6%)
  • Offence took place in another force                             (5%)
  • Incident recorded as crime in error                             (1%)
  • Other                                                                                   (2%)

The Numbers

Government press release which then become newspaper stories frequently talk only in terms of percentages (lobby groups do the same). So let’s translate these percentages into real numbers. 

If there were 676 rape cases in this particulate sample, and if false allegations were found in 15% of cases it would mean that 101 out of 676 cases were false, or one in 6½ claims. 

That is obviously far and away above the consensus level of 2%, so what can be done ? Vigorous pruning is the obvious solution. We are not told how this was achieved save to say it was ‘appropriate’. 

When the number of false allegations are cut down in size to 8% (approx 50% of the original 15% figure) the number of false allegations would then number only 55. Suddenly, only one in 12 reported rapes are false allegations. A much more acceptable outcome. 

How the pruning is achieved is not well documented by the methodology section refers extensively to the subjectivity of various researchers since the 1980s who have adopted all manner of means to get at the true figure net of false allegations or vice versa quantify false allegations. 

Before moving on to other techniques used in doctoring the data it is worth maintain the reports other crucial findings. These are that in around 7 out of 10 cases are lost from the system between an offence being ‘crimed’ and charges being brought.

It is astonishing to then learn that of the ‘crimed’ cases that did not result in a charge, the victim withdraw her complaint in 35% of instances and there was sufficient evidence in 40% of cases (these were the two most common reasons identified for not charging). 

Again, let’s translate these percentages into real numbers. If there were 676 cases under review and 7 in 10 (i.e. 70%), are lost from the system then 473 reports of rape resulted in no legal action being taken (103 were actioned, ie 676 – 473).

Of those 473 reports of rape that resulted in no action, 165 women withdrew their rape claim, i.e. 35%. There was insufficient evidence in 189 cases

However, 165 + 189 = 354, not 473. And if we apply the same percentages to 676 we arrive at 506 (i.e. 236 +270). 

Perversely, a major concession contained in the report is that stated the rape conviction rate (6%) is found not to be true. The detection rate for the sample as a whole was 30%, meaning in total 72 offences resulted in a conviction. This “equates to a conviction rate of 13%” but as we know rape is the only criminal offence where the attrition rate is used [wrongly] in place of the true conviction rate.

The reason given for this higher figure (i.e. 13%) is that it includes convictions for lesser offences such as indecent assault which the 6% figures does not (presumably the 6%t counts only attrition as it applies to alleged rape offences). 

The technical ways in which raw data can be manipulated are countless. We are given an insight in to one adopted by Liz Kelly – a favoured writer of the Home Office.

In her 2005 paper she urges researchers into rape and false allegations thereof to adopt appropriate decisions when adjusting for ‘no-criming’. She advises against grouping together different types of no crime into a single undifferentiated group. The effect of this is to blur the distinction between cases where 1/. there is a genuine, initial concern that a rape has been committed but ultimately ‘no evidence of an assault’ is found and 2/. those cases that are false allegations. This immediately and drastically lowers the numbers of rapes initialing labeled as ‘false allegations.’ 

The category ‘Doctor/FME’ (forensic medial examination), where the assessment is that no offence took place’ broadly corresponds to Liz Kelly’s ‘no evidence of assault’ category. If no offence took place then common sense should tell us that it is a false allegation. But under the Kelly doctrine it becomes a possible rape and goes into the 1/, above, where it is believed that a genuine rape has taken place initially. 

FME cases account for 42 instances in this sample. In just over half of these cases (51% i.e. 21), the decision to ‘no crime’ was due to the victim admitting that no crime took place.

In a further 10 instances evidence came to light which contradicted the victim’s account of events.  Again, the narrative then tells of an ‘adjusting for offences which were inappropriately classified’, but no premise as to why is stated. All we are told is that they include ‘offences which might be considered to be false allegations of some kind or another’ and that they ‘accounted for 8% of the entire sample (where the sample size was 52 – not the 676 – though even this is not made clear). 

Cynically, one could view all these processes as progressive pruning to arrive at a preordained and acceptable figure.

Characteristics of False Allegations

Having once achieved a more diverse range of allegations under the no crimes label (from plain false allegation to FME and then ‘administrative error’), the authors conclude there “is little value in examining this as a single category.”

Instead the authors decide it would be ‘more fruitful to examine whether false allegation cases have particular characteristics that distinguish them from crimed cases.’

Straight away one can think of attention-seekers, the crazed, fantasists and those bent on revenge or spite.

At first it looks promising; the authors come up with a total of 22 victim and offence variables for  consideration. None of the obvious appear and instead the authors pick out the following as “significant variables” (Table 4.2).

Relationship             Place of initial contact         How offence reported      Extent of injuries      Location of first offence           Employment status            Police Force

These categories were then cross-referenced with stranger, intimate, or acquaintance etc.

Surprise, surprise, these studious academic types found ‘no observable connection’ between any of the variables and people who make false allegations.

The table simply identifies those offence characteristics which are more commonly found in false allegation cases compared to all other offences. The overwhelming majority of reported offences featuring any of these characteristics will still be crimed offences.

Those ‘characteristics which are more commonly found in false allegation cases’ lead to no useful or clear cut answer. For instance, the table (4.2) finds that stranger relationships are over-represented in false allegation cases where they account for 37% of false allegations whereas they account for only 14% of all crimed rape offences.

Something termed the “Initial contact” refers to a ‘public place’ and again false allegation are over-represented at 47% compared to 23% of all crimed cases.

These are so nebulous, ie generic, ill-defined, imprecise etc, as to have little practical relevance  for members of the public.

Worryingly the report describes those who have made previous false allegations or who are ‘vulnerable victims’ as not significantly over or under-represented in the crimed and ‘no-crime’ offences.

Some elements in ther study might prove useful in questioning the truthfulness of claims in future cases. It may alarm some to realise that 87% of false allegation were made direct to the police (as opposed to other methods of contact) compared with 67% for all offences, presumably rape, that were crimed.

In false allegation cases the victims did not suffered any injuries in 85% of  instances compared with 66% where the offence is crimed.

One of the last points the report makes in this section is that students are over-represented amongst false allegation cases (23%). This compares to 10% of all other crimed cases.

Reasons for Not Charging

This brings us to the question why and in what circumstances are charges by the police and allegation by the complainant are actually dropped. This is particularly critical as it measures the drop out rate not in the outlandish cases but in cases where the police deem there to be a legitimate cause to believe an offence has occurred.

Overwhelmingly, and in top spot at 40%, is ‘a lack of evidence.’ Given the wonders of DNA and forensic science generally plus the fact that rape is one of the few crimes where the victim knows the alleged criminal in 90% of instances, the 40% is truly astonishing.

The second ranking reason, at 35%, is that the complainant withdraws her allegation. This is sometimes discounted by those seeking to punish anyone accused of rape by implying intimidation on the part of the accused, or by the police being difficult and not supporting the alleged victim, etc, etc . But having looked into this aspect a complainant can only make a withdrawal when she has satisfied strict Home Office criterion and the police are bound by specific regulations on this matter.

The interim results of PAFAA study presently underway into false allegation give the lie to some of those claims. Police forces are shown to be reacting to rape allegations very promptly; to commonly organise a 20 to 30 strong detective teams for the investigation; and spending upwards of £13, 000 to £300,000 on each case (where costs are mentioned).

Shown below is Figure 4.3, a pie chart taken from “Investigating and detecting recorded offences of rape.” It details in percentages, the reasons for not charging a person after a woman has made a rape allegation and where the offence is recorded as a legitimate incident.

         Figure 4.3. Reasons for not charging – all crimed cases not resulting in  charge  (reasons for not charging, i.e. proceeding with the case) 

 The  analysis looks like this:

  • Insufficient evidence                                           40%
  • Complaint withdrawn                                         35%
  • Victim reluctant to assist                                    11%
  • No suspect                                                            10%
  • No formal complaint made                                  2%
  • Suspect identified but not apprehended           2%
  • Not in the public interest                                        1%

Withdrawing Accusations

The number of cases withdrawn by the victim at any of the possible stages (in this study) accounted for 39% of crimed cases.

This percentage is based not on the original 676 sample size but on the 569 cases that were crimed and “where it was known whether or not the victim had withdrawn” their complaint / allegation a difference of 107 (676 – 569).

Nothing is said of the number of allegations where it was not known whether or not the victim had withdrawn their allegation.

At another point in the report it states that of the sample size (676), 593 were crimed cases and 83 no-crimed cases. This is at odds with the 569 and 506 listed above and the 83 doesn’t tally with the 101, 103, 189, 103, mentioned earlier.

Ideally, an explanation as to why these figures differ would be appreciated but the text of the report appears to offer none.

At first sight Fig 4.1 (below), looks to give the answers but on closer examination it  reveals only the attrition rate for offences that have been crimed – not those that have been no-crimed – and we have a new set of numbers not seen before ie 576, 364, 173 etc.

Only the totals 72 and 676 (see Fig 4.1) have appeared before in the report (and they are included earlier in this précis).

            Figure 4.1: Overall attrition within the sample

Of the 6 lesser categories the one that stands out is “No suspect.” It could be argued that the lack of a suspect either a person known to the victim or one that could be categories as ‘a stranger’ underlines the possibility that the true level of false allegation is around 10% if not more.

We hear much (and often) from politicians such as Harriet Harman MP about rapists let loose on our streets or of unapprehended rapists free to roam and strike again but at 2% (for suspect identified but not apprehended) is that stance credible ?

“No formal complaint made” is a little odd, given that the police are obliged to convert any and all reported crimes such as rape into the more serious ‘recorded’ crime (they have for a long time been a ‘notifiable offence’). One can only suppose that the far fetched or hysterical or drunkenness of the would-be complainant has ruled out their complaint from entering deep into the system.

 “Not in the public interest” probably arises when the CPS take the view that the case will most likely fail or be discontinued by the judge due to the flimsiness of the case or unreliability of the witness herself.

That said the latter account for only 5% of cases for not charging even where the offence has been crimed, i.e. recorded as a legitimate incident.

Waiting to Know

For those at the receiving end of a false allegation it might be helpful to know at what stage one can expect the charges, or threat of being charged, to be dropped.

Around 1 in 10 allegations are withdrawals  by the victim after a suspected offender had been charged; the vast majority of withdrawals take place during the police investigation stage of the process (Fig 5.1).

Figure 5.1: Victim withdrawal by point within the investigative process. 

 The analysis at this stage looks like this:

  • Withdrawal after the arrest but before being charged      33%
  • Withdrawal before the suspect is apprehended               58%
  • Withdrawal after the suspect is charged                              9%

National Picture

Given the above information does it transform our perception of the national picture when the ratios and percentages are fed into the equation ?

The number of ‘reported rapes’ in England & Wales were 13,991 in 2009 – 10. We can ignore for this exercise how many of these claims resulted in proceedings being taken, or how many individual were charged, or how many convictions resulted

  • If there were, indeed, 13,991 allegations of rape in England & Wales and the rate of false allegations is 15% then 2,099 of the alleged rapes are in fact false allegations.
  • Compare this with the preferred 2% figure which gives rise to only 280 – a figure so small it can be confidently dismissed in official circles as trifling.
  • Even the substantially reduced figure of 8% results in 1,120 occasions of false rape allegations – a number that dwarfs the official number of 280.

To Recap

Of the original sample of offences, i.e. 676 rape offence examples –

  • 85% were actually crimed
  • 15% were no crimed

Of the original sample of offences, i.e. 676 examples, 576 cases were crimed by the various police forces. Of these:

  • 32% were classified as detected
  • 166 of these offences resulted in an offender (or offenders) being charged;
  • 7 cases resulted in a caution
  • 9 cases resulted in a non-sanction detection

The report goes on to state this “corresponds to a ‘sanction detection rate’, that is, the number of charges plus cautions divided by crimed offences of 30%.”

Of those offences that resulted in a charge:

  • 130 went for trial
  • 72 offences ended up with the offender being convicted
  • 7 cautions were issued
  • In 32 offences a suspect was convicted for rape
  • In a further 40 cases the suspect was convicted for a lesser offence.

After the attrition process (see Figure 4.1), the proportion of crimed offences resulting in a rape conviction (alone) was 6%. The proportion of crimed offences resulting in a conviction for rape or another lesser offence was 13% (in 5 cases the lesser offence was not a sex offence).

In total there were 39 occasions when the offender was also convicted of an additional but lesser offence(s).

As the report admits;

A conviction rate of 13% is considerably higher than the frequently quoted statistics on the conviction rate for rape.

The only problem with the 13% (above) is that it is used as a substitute for the more common 6% conviction ratio. Arguably, both are actually ‘attrition’ ratios but the Report, in its 118 pages, fails to clarify the matter.

It then gives the reasons; the 6% is due apparently to an ‘administrative’ method where the figures for convictions for rape alone are used. Where an offender charged with rape is convicted of a lesser crime the offender is excluded form this ‘administrative’ method but not the offence.

Where the offenders is found guilty of either rape or a lesser crime, say, indecent assault or violence, the total conviction rate becomes 13% (see reference to ‘pruning’ above).

In this 2007 report, convictions for lesser offences represent a sizable proportion of total outcomes and accounted for 56% of all convictions.

We also have to recall that that when Labour came to power in 1997 there were 6,281 reported rapes. By 2001 it had risen to 8,990 reported rapes per annum and hit 11,441 in 2002 – an increase of 82%.

This must surely be unparalleled in any other sphere of social interchange or social science. And it is no comfort whatsoever to hear the increase explained away as shooting up “partly because of new ways of collecting statistics.”  If anything, that should make us more wary that we are not being told, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

NB. The risk of rape threat and the threat of rapists to the general public will be discussed in a future article.


[1] “Murder and Serious Sexual Assault: What criminal histories can reveal about future serious offending”. (2002). Police Research Series Paper 144,


“Investigating and detecting recorded offences of rape” (2007)

“Guidelines for medico-legal care for victims of sexual violence” (UN)