Anonymity – a jig-saw misrespresented

Rape is where a factual 1% becomes an anecdotal 62% or 90%  in the public’s mind.

In a previous article (‘Britain’s Benighted Women MPs”), more information was promised regarding both anonymity and the allegation that rapists are repeat offenders and therefore have to be treated differently from any other class of criminal. 

The following data, in conjunction with other articles on this site, dispel such myths and fulfills that promise.

by Robert Whiston  FRSA  Dec 28th 2010

A chasm has opened up between what women MPs think they factually know about rape and what the hard data tells us. This dicotomy then extends into their thinking anout rape anonymity and what they believe are the facts.

Once upon a time it was quite permissible for the Home Office to get away with blue murder; to feed the media manicured data and even manipulated facts. No one  thought to question such an impeachable source as the  Home Office – but no more.

Relentlessly the HOs ‘sins and omissions’ have been identified and broadcast. It has been shown to have been issuing Press Releases that owe more to fairy tales than in fact.

All HO publications up to and including the recent HORS 293 (‘A gap or a chasm’), can now be discounted as merely ‘guides’ and no longer gospel or a Bible. The situation has turned 180 degrees.

If the July 2010 House of Commons debate about Rape and Rape Anonymity for defendants was the nail in the coffin of a brave quest for gender equality, then the Ministry of Justice’s review into the matter oversaw its funeral.

Or at least that is how it must be seen by the coterie that opposed the liberalisation of anonymity. For despite the apparent reversal nothing will quite be the same again. An indolent media has had its eyes opened and there will be a ‘next time’ (there always is), when this ‘local difficulty’ will not be pushed away so easily.

In the previous article “Britain’s Benighted Women MPs”(https://falseallegations.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/9/), we detailed what women MPs said they believed or were told was true. Some of the most repeated and most importance claims are listed below:

  1. Most perpetrators of rape often do not stop at one offence; they continue their offending behaviour
  2. 95% of rapes are not reported to the police (Marie Eagle)
  3. The conviction rate is a miserable 6% or 8%, or 6%, implying that over 90% of rapists are never caught or convicted and are at liberty to rape again
  4. In my experience of working with sex offenders (says Meg Munn MP), it is extremely unusual for someone to offend on only one occasion”
  5. Every 34 minutes a rape is reported to the police in the UK (Caroline Flint MP)
  6. “tens of thousands of rapists” are getting away with rape every year
  7. “tens of thousands of rapists go uncaught and unpunished

The November 2010 Review of Rape Anonymity (“Providing anonymity to those accused of rape: An assessment of evidence[1]), undertaken by the Min of Justice, has provided us with information confirming our suspicions and destroying myths held by opponents to anonymity for defendants (and or anonymity for neither).

But accompanying the main report is a set of Data Tables that should not be overlooked and which can be found at < http://www.justice.gov.uk/anonymity-rape-assessment-evidence.htm >. [2]

They shed information that destroys the claims made by the most vocal opponents to reform. For instance, in one set of data provided by the Min of Justice only 1% of rapists re-offend again by raping (see below).
Annual statistics from the Home Ofice shows that rape makes up only 0.6% of all reported crimes. Therefore someother crimes is far more likely to happen to you.

After the Court of first instance (Magistrates), where 2,796 claims were heard in 2009, approx 700 were immediately dismissed and 2,019 were sent for hearing at a Crown Court of which 1,000 resulted in acquittals (see table below). However, and confusingly, Magistrates’ Courts are not empowered to hear rape and sexual offence cases in England & Wales. Therefore, attention has to turn to the Crown Court numbers,  2,019 and 1,000 respectively. 

 

The Table above deals only with the numbers accused and tried for rape and not any other form of sexual offence. We start with generalised sex offending which includes rapes but also lesser offences as well as some ‘diverse’ criminal acts, e.g. bestiality and incest (though these two should be treated as quite aberrant behaviour and unrelated to this article).

Comparing the Table above with Table 1 (below), one can immediately see an apparent contradiction and which makes understanding rape statistics so very difficult on many occasions.

The Table above shows a figure of 2,796 but the table below shows over 3,990. The explanation for this discrepancy is that it is very common for a text to switch from ‘rape ‘to ‘sexual offences’ and not highlight the distinction – and this is the case in this instance. 

Sexual Offences generally

Sometimes rapes are referred to as ‘serious’ sexual assaults (SSA), but equally, sometimes others sexual offences are termed ‘serious’ sexual assaults because, quite literally, that is what they are – so caution must be exercised at all times.

In Table 1 (below), can be seen that 38% of those sentenced for a sex offence had, quote; “no previous convictions or cautions for any offence.”

The balance, 62%, or almost two thirds (62%) of those convicted for a sexual offence had some kind of “previous convictions or cautions for an offence” eg motoring. Of that 62%, only 1% (as we shall see later) – and numbering 33 individuals – had a previous conviction for rape.

 If 62% of offenders have some kind of previous conviction then it implies that for the innocent man – charged with rape and brought to trial and having no previous conviction, i.e. arrested for the 1st time, the probability of him having done it is very small.

It also means that well in excess of 38% (100 – 62 = 38) enter the permanent DNA system on fraudulent charges. The 38% represent only the tip of the iceberg of men brought in for questioning because for if there were, say, 13,000 rapes reported in 2009, with only 3,996 are brought to trial every year this would leave approx. 9,000 men to face the prospect of unnecessary publicity, loss of job, family, home, care of their own children and the privacy of their DNA forever invaded.

The argument is often heard that rape offenders begin with petty crimes and then graduate to sex offences culminating in rape. However, in Table 1 only 483 persons had any form of one (or more) previous convictions or cautions for sexual offences but not rape (19%).

The public fuss about all rapists being repeat offenders comes under scrutiny when the figures show for 2009 only 33, or 1% , of those tried for rape had a previous rape offence (just how long ago is not detailed).

What should rivet the attention of women politicians is not the 1% but the 79% (the 1,985 persons), who have a previous conviction or cautions for a non-sexual offences but who then  cross the border into sex offending.

If there is a connection then it is a very tenuous one, if, of the 19% of those offenders only 1% then goes on to future rape offending (see Table 2). If the calculation is made using the 3,996 figure (instead of 2,481), the falls from 1.3% (rounded down to 1% ?) to 0.82%.

Rape-only offending

Table 2 depicts sentences specific to those persons charged and convicted of ‘rape.’ Whereas in 2009 there were 3,996 male sex offenders in England & Wales sentenced for a variety of sexual offences there were only 1,046 offenders convicted of rape (66% of those convicted for rape did have a history of some sort of sex offending, e.g. flashing to indecent assault). According to Min of Justice calculations this subset amounts to 695 persons (Table 2). 

Once again, over one third (34%) of those offenders sentenced had no previous convictions or cautions for any offence (see second line of  Table 2). This compares with 38% stated in Table 1. Not for the first time are the numbers confusing and not for the first time does the source, Home Office or Min of Justice, state they are subject to a margin of error.

 Once again – but this time specifically for rape – over 34% had ‘no previous convictions or cautions for any offence’ (see 38% above). Numerically, in 2009, a total of 351 rapists were sentenced who had not raped before and who had not committed any other offence, sexual or non-sexual, before. Of the 695 sentenced for rape 586 had some sort of previous conviction. Very few, 33 and 76, had a previous conviction for a sex offence (a far cry from the alleged “tens of thousands”).

The figure of 1% for repeat offenders (serial rapists ?) rises to 3.1% in Table 2 due to the smaller population (33 / 1,046).

The 33 individuals represent 5% of the 695 offenders who had one or more convictions for rape (highlighted). Technically, ‘cautions’ for rape are rarely/never given, so we can ignore that aspect of the category. When, however, the larger population of 1,046 is used as the base, this percentage falls to 3.17%.

Irrespective of whether one chooses the 1% option, the 3.17% alternative, or prefers the 5%, all are as distant as possible from the impression put across by MPs in the House of Commons regarding the prevalence and frequency of rapist striking repeatedly.

The Missing Category

Great care has to be exercised when dealing with rape figures but rarely do politicians heed this warning. Having touched on why it is wrong to assume that “tens of thousands of rapists are free to roam and rape repeatedly” there are other aspects in need of attention. [2]

For instance, there is a tendency for the public to assume one reported rape equates to one rape defendant. Published statistics reflect only the number of rapes reported – rarely the number of offenders and the number of rapes they are alleged to have committed. The consequence of this is that if there are 1,000 rapes per annum the assumption is made that there must be 1,000 rapists (when, in fact, there might be only 200). This was highlighted many years ago using HORS 196 t sho whowm nay rapes were comitted by rapists. The median was then about 4.

The Nov 2010 rape anonymity review has promted more data to be released that would probably have been the case. Table 3 shows an updated and more complete data set than in HORS 196. In 2009 there were 552 single event rapes. In the same year there were 208 defendents who had committed a rape previously. The numbers continue to dramatically fall off  for the 3rd and 4th rapes, ie in 2009 ,111 defendents had committed rapes 3 times and only 56 had raped 4 times. 

Visually it is easy to group these figures in Table 3 into  approximate  categories. Firstly, there are what can be termed the Hapless – the ones who never intended to rape (or believed it was rape) and will never rape again. Then there are the Habitual rapists who rape between 2 and 5 times. Finally, there is the ‘serial rapist’ who can rape repeatedly, 7 to 20 times, sometimes over decades.

At the moment we have no special category for this last group when everything screams for to them having their own Crime Index Code/ Number. At present the Hapless rapist and serial rapist are lumped together which can only give a distorted result for treatment results and re-offending.

Tabloid blindness 

Missing too from the debate is discussion of the serious failure of the tabloids to distinguish between sex offence categories, particularly lesser sex crimes, e.g. “flashing”. Rape sells papers so it is imatterial to the Press whether it is a single instance of rape (clumsy teenagers), or the more dangerous cases involving  serials rapists.

If any distinction is attempted by the media it is usually between rapists and paedophiles. However, this is then counter-acted by the tendency for the collators of statistics to aggregate all sex based crimes as ‘sex offences’. The result is that we have a media that sometimes but can’t be relied upon to distinguishes between rape and paedophilia and officiakl statistics theat inclue all manner of peripheral data.

What cannot be in doubt is that the police administrative IT system puts into to context many if not all the sample surveys undertaken to date. These suffered the disadvantage of access being restricted to a certain number of files or the sample size limited, e.g. Crown Prosecution Service and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary publications, or Liz Kelly’s HORS 293, “A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases” (2006), police data on the other hand is based not on samples (which may have been “trawled” and thus biased) but on national and whole year figures. [4]  

The extraordinary situation whereby a convicted young offender is paid £575,000 by the Home Office in January 2007 for a failed suicide bid raises the question why those accused of rape are not similarly compensated. Indeed, why those wrongly sentenced for rape are not paid compensation but are in fact threatened by the Home Office with a demand for 15 or 27 years worth of board and lodging is inexplicable. [5]

END

Footnotes:


[1] http://www.justice.gov.uk/anonymity-rape-research-report.pdf

[2]  ‘Data Access and Compliance Unit’, Ministry of Justice (12th December 2010) – – The data made available in Dec 2010 after a special request to the Ministry of Justice is in fact taken from the Police administrative IT system – and it is most revealing. The figures provided have been drawn from the police administrative IT system, the police national computer, which, as with any large scale recording system, is subject to possible errors with data entry and processing. The figures are provisional and subject to change as more information is recorded by police.

[3] Caroline Flint, MP, the ‘Independent’, Monday 7th June 2010

[4] Highlighted in ‘A gap or a chasm? ‘ (pub HO), is the “complex layering of different kinds of cases and circumstances” that comprise “no crimes’ and the way in which the HOCR are being interpreted.

[5] Details of the incident, believed to be at the young offenders’ institution in Northallerton (North Yorkshire), are sketchy. It is unclear if the inmate successfully claimed his “human rights” were breached by his rescuers, i.e. the Prison Service. http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=32710&in_page_id=34   

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