New Comparative Research of 11 European Countries including Ireland, Highlights the Low Levels of Rape Cases Proceeding to Court

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Today at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC), Broadcaster and Journalist, Vincent Browne launched the Briefing Document on Ireland and the Report to the EU, on the EU DAPHNE II Project, “Different systems – similar outcomes. Tracking Attrition in Reported Rape Cases in Eleven European Countries”.

The Principal Investigators were Professor Liz Kelly and Jo Lovett (The Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University). The Irish Partner was Dr Paul O’Mahony, criminologist, TCD, and the Irish Researcher was Mary-Louise Corr, TCD.

This pioneering research set out to use the same methodology and definitions in 11 countries in order to trace the progress of cases of rape from the point at which they are reported to the Police/Gardai, through the various phases and decision points of the criminal justice process at which attrition can occur. The 11 participating countries are Ireland, England, France, Belgium, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Greece, Hungary and Portugal.

In each country, one hundred sequential cases of reported rape, involving adult male and female victims, were collected from a start date of April 1st 2004.

Dr. Paul O’Mahony said: “Attrition in rape cases is the process by which cases drop out of the system and fail to reach the finality of a trial and conviction or acquittal. Throughout Europe, attrition is found to be a very serious problem in relation to sexual violence or coercion, with a large number of sexual offences failing to lead to prosecution and conviction. The bulk of attrition occurs because victims do not report the offence. However a great deal of attrition also occurs at various points in the criminal justice process itself and indeed these forms of attrition probably play a considerable role in discouraging victims from reporting in the first place.”

In Ireland

Outcomes of criminal justice process were:

  • An alleged perpetrator was identified in 79 of the 100 reported rape cases
  • only 18 suspects were charged and 16 of these proceeded to court
  • 8 of these 16 cases led to a conviction. 2 cases led to an acquittal
  • 2 cases are still pending
  • in 2 cases, the accused absconded
  • in 2 cases the victim withdrew from the case during the court process
  • the conviction rate was 8% (the percentage of rape reports that ended in a conviction)
  • sentences ranged from 4.5 years to 15 years imprisonment

Dr. Paul O’Mahony added: “The conviction rate in Ireland has declined somewhat in recent years and this mirrors the experience in England and Wales. However, this mainly reflects the fact that more cases have been reported and a smaller proportion of these cases have been prosecuted rather than a decline in the success rate of prosecutions.”

Victim Profile:

  • 96% of the victims were female and 4% were male
  • 72% of all victims were aged between 18 and 30
  • a very high number of Irish victims 84% had consumed alcohol around the time of the assault (the highest of all participating countries)
  • 88% of the victims were Irish nationals

Suspect Profile:

  • Overall, suspects were slightly older than victims. The average age of suspects was 34 years compared to an average age of victims 28 years
  • 14% of alleged perpetrators had previously been accused of a sexual offence
  • just less than 3% had previous convictions for a sexual offence
  • 40% of alleged perpetrators had at least 1 previous conviction for any kind of offence
  • 87% of the alleged perpetrators (where these were identified) were Irish nationals
  • just under half (47%) were single, 43% married or in a relationship. Data was missing here for 26
  • 88% of suspects had consumed alcohol at the time of the assault (where this information was known)

Contexts:

  • The assaults occurred in a variety of locations, but over half in private settings – the homes of victims and/or suspects
  • 24% of perpetrators were current or ex-partners and 20% were strangers
  • 38% of victims had documented additional injuries. A weapon was used in 1 case. The level of documented injuries is, in part, a function of the relatively high proportion who were forensically examined in Ireland compared to other countries

Reasons for attrition:

  • The two main reasons for attrition were victim withdrawal from the process and a decision by the DPP that there was insufficient evidence to proceed
  • in 10 cases the victim retracted their allegation
  • in 34 cases the DPP concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute
  • in 24 cases the victim withdrew their co-operation and effectively ended the prosecution
  • in 9 cases either the Gardai or the DPP deemed that there had been a false allegation and so the case was ‘no-crimed’

For further information please contact:
Dr. Paul O’Mahony, TCD – 01 833 9757 / 086 861 0763
Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, CEO, DRCC – 01 661 4911 / 086 809 9618

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