Friday, February 26, 2010

Rape - a case study

This has just happened to someone I know, slightly.

Less than two months into his marriage to a Turkish woman, this man was accused by her of rape. They were living in a shared flat (both in mid-twenties) and the evening of the alleged attack, after the alleged attack, she was sitting happily with her husband and their house mates, chatting until bed time. She went to bed with her husband, who had allegedly raped her earlier, made him breakfast in the morning, again interacting with housemates perfectly happily, then she disappeared, as it turned out going to the local police station to make a complaint.

About a week before making this complaint, the woman had discovered that her application for permanent residency here would be fast-tracked if she was thought to be the victim of domestic abuse. The marriage itself had been fast-tracked because she had visa problems and she needed it to stay in this country.

So, after interviewing everyone, the police knew that the woman had a motive for making a false allegation, that it had taken her 12 hours from the alleged attack to report it, during which time she was with her alleged attacker and others, happy and laughing, and that between the time of the alleged attack and the complaint she had slept with her husband without any alleged coercion and eaten two meals with him. There was no physical evidence of rape.

The police charged the man with rape.

Then the husband withdrew his support for the woman's current visa application.

She called him, it was all a mistake, she hadn't meant it, didn't know why she had spoken to the police, would withdraw her complaint. This and half a dozen other calls were recorded by the husband. She followed him around, went to his house, slept with him repeatedly, promised to withdraw the complaint - all these things entirely of her own initiative. I think he was unwise to sleep with her under these circumstances, but she is extremely good looking and he is besotted.

The police were notified that all these things had happened. The CPS decided to proceed anyway and he had to attend court and enter a plea.

Then the woman withdrew her complaint. The case has had to be withdrawn. In my view, if the alleged offence had been anything other than rape, no charges would have been brought. As it stands, I suspect that because he had actually appeared in court, this will count as a "failed" prosecution.

There might be other problems with the legal handling of rape cases, but over-prosecution is one reason why the conviction rates are low. As an ex-policeman explained it to me, nobody wants to be accused of failing to take rape seriously. The police pass the buck, to the CPS, by referring flimsy cases to them. The CPS passes the buck to the courts, and the courts then have to acquit in situations where no prosecution should ever have been brought. Then the courts get blamed for this apparently high acquittal rate.

In this case, there might also be an example of the Law of Unforeseen Consequences. Fast-tracking residency claims for abused women of foreign origin who find themselves in abusive marriages here, dependent on the abusive husband for their visa, is an excellent idea, in principle. Where people do not freely choose their own spouses, for cultural reasons, this might be a problem that requires action. But the unforeseen consequence of the action that has actually been taken, the fast-tracking of residency applications, is that it has created an incentive for false claims of abuse.

1 comment:

cabalamat said...

Actually the conviction rate for rape is not that low -- it's 55% compared with 64% for all crimes.

The main problem here, as far as public policy is concerned, is that someone was given an incentive by the state to report a crime that hadn't happened; obviously the state should refrain from incentivising such behaviour.