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Just one in four rape cases in Northern Ireland ends with conviction

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Lucy Monaghan. Image courtesy of BBC NI

Lucy Monaghan. Image courtesy of BBC NI

Lucy Monaghan. Image courtesy of BBC NI

More than three-quarters of prosecutions for rape and attempted rape in Northern Ireland do not result in convictions, new figures have shown.

For out of 345 cases issued by the Public Prosecutions Office over a four-year period, there were 81 convictions - less than a quarter.

The latest statistics presented in the Assembly show that between March 2015 and March 2019, the Public Prosecution Service received a total of 1,941 files including alleged offences of rape or attempted rape.

And further figures from the Police Service of Northern Ireland show a total of 5,290 offences of rape, including attempted rape, which were reported to police during the 2014-2019 period.

DUP MLA David Hilditch has said the up-to-date figures have confirmed the low conviction rate which has caused worry.

"There is a lot of concern about the process and the figures out there. What steps are being taken to increase the low conviction rate?" he asked Justice Minister Naomi Long.

Mrs Long, the Alliance Party leader, said that she is committed to improving the experience of complainants, following the review by Sir John Gillen into how the criminal justice system in the province deals with cases of serious sexual assault.

The appointment of additional case progression officers in both the PSNI and PPS is a priority, along with a new evidence centre in Belfast allowing alleged victims to give evidence without having to appear in court.

Reform of the committal process in the legal system should also ensure that complainants only have to give oral evidence in court once.

"We want to prioritise those areas which can have the greatest impact on complainants going through that system in the first phase of implementation," Mrs Long said.

The report by Sir John made a total of more than 250 recommendations. It was set up in the aftermath of concerns about a number of alleged rape cases.

Last week local woman Lucy Monaghan gave up her right to anonymity to complain about how police and the prosecution service "let her down". The 31-year-old said she was disappointed and dumbfounded when her complaint of alleged rape did not lead to a prosecution.

The Police Ombudsman found that her interview with police, copies of social media messages with her alleged attacker and medical reports had not been sent to police - and an investigating officer did not make arrangements to obtain witness statements.

Ms Monaghan especially objected to a letter from a senior prosecutor within the PPS which said the court would take note "that before sexual intercourse took place, there was evidence that you were flirting with him and that immediately afterwards you were in very good form".

The PPS said, however, the reference was not intended to assert that flirting before, or after, a sexual act indicates likely or actual consent to that act.

A separate statement added that the number of offences resulting in charges or summons is only provisional. "Investigations for rape offences recorded since 2014 will be ongoing and may result in a charge or summons at a future date," it said.

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