Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Concerned: Justice Minister David Hanson pledges shake-up

Shock figures on conviction rate for rapists

Alarm at low prosecution statistics

Alarm at low prosecution statistics

BY MARK HOOKHAM

PARLIAMENTARY CORRESPONDENT



ONLY a tiny proportion of rapes committed in Northern Ireland are successfully prosecuted, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Latest government figures show a shocking difference between the number of rape and other sexual assaults recorded by the PSNI and the annual number of offenders convicted in Ulster courts.

Justice minister David Hanson said he is concerned at the trend and said it would inform his review intended to shake up the courts system.

In 2003/04, police recorded 1,780 sexual assaults, including 354 rapes.

The previous year, police recorded 1,469 sexual assaults, including 317 rapes.

However, in 2003 - the latest year that figures are available from the courts - there were only 108 offenders convicted for sexual assaults, including a paltry eight rape convictions.

The previous year there were 85 offenders convicted for sexual assaults including, again, only eight rape convictions.

Conviction figures for 2004 are due out in August and are likely to show the same disturbing picture.

The statistics were revealed in a written answer to SDLP leader and Foyle MP Mark Durkan.

Mr Hanson promised that the low conviction rates will be taken into account during his review of sentencing polices for sexual and violent offences.

He has previously indicated that the review could also contain beefed up sentences for knife crime.

He said: "I am aware of and share concerns about the very low number of rapes reported to the police that result in prosecutions.

"I shall be including this issue as part of the forthcoming consultation on sexual offences legislation which I expect to initiate shortly."

The figures also reveal a record number of rapes last year.

There were 356 rapes in 2005/06, up from 347 in 2004/05 and from 264 a decade ago.

The total number of sexual assaults rose from 1,686 in 2004/05 to 1,711 in 2005/06.

Mr Hanson is due to announce the results of his sentencing review in the autumn.

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