Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rape Conviction Rates.

The conviction of serial rapist John Worboys has produced a lot of complaints over the extremely low conviction rates for rape. This is understandable, when one considers that most reasonable estimates also suggest that at least 90% of rapes are never even reported it is clear that the vast majority of rapes go unpunished.

Despite what certain fanatics say the low conviction rate isn't due to a tacit tolerance of rape or police indifference but mostly due to it being a uniquely difficult crime to prove beyond reasonable doubt because their are usually no witnesses and the physical evidence is usually indistinguishable from consensual sex (although not in the Worboys case where sedatives were administered).

There isn't much that can be used to dramatically increase the conviction rate without also sending a lot of innocent men to prison as well (the rate of false reporting to the police is probably quite high with the best estimates suggesting that between a quarter and a half of all complaints to the police are false).

So if nothing can be done to increase the conviction rate then what else be done to make the law a more effective deterrent? The only solution seems to me to drastically increase the sentences for those convicted of the crime, because if the probability of being caught is low then the consequences of of being convicted have to be made higher in order to compensate for that.


JuliaM said...

"There isn't much that can be used to dramatically increase the conviction rate..."

Well, there are steps that women could take to help reduce the chance of this happening. But I've had two (maybe three) comments moderated out of existance over at that CiF piece for pointing it out!

Ross said...

They're really demolishing the arguments you haven't made aren't they.

JuliaM said...

A favourite CiF commenter tactic...

Nick von Mises said...


(i) link to these "best estimates" of false reporting
(ii) Punishment should fit the crime, not be a mathematical trade off to socially engineer the good society.

Otherwise agree.

Ross said...

"i) link to these "best estimates" of false reporting"

A researcher callled Eugene Kanin examined the subject and found that in 41% of reports to the police were false, using a high bar of only considering an accusation false if the accuser admitted to making it up:

Other studies using DNA evidence have found that between 20% to 40% of suspects can be excluded:

"Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained, the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing. Specifically, FBI officials report that out of roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989, about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive, about 2,000 tests have excluded the primary suspect, and about 6,000 have "matched" or included the primary suspect.",2933,194032,00.html

When I wrote the post I was going from memory so I should probably have said 25% to 40%, not 25% to 50%.

"Punishment should fit the crime, not be a mathematical trade off to socially engineer the good society."

Then crimes with low conviction rates will have few deterrents.