Ann Coffey MP calls for major review of juries for rape cases

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A veteran Labour MP claims society is reluctant to convict young men of "date rape" and has called for a major review of the jury system for rape cases.

Ann Coffey said rape myths and stereotypes were dominant in society, including views that "women invite rape by what they wear" or "real rapes are done by strangers in alleyways".

She said juries took these views into court and also lacked understanding about consent in date or acquaintance rape cases, leading to falling conviction rates.

"A perfect storm" was brewing as a result, Ms Coffey said, in which prosecutors were reluctant to pursue cases and police were reluctant to lay charges.

"The result of this is that victims will stop coming forward and justice in the criminal justice system will be denied to young women," she said in a House of Commons motion on Wednesday.

Ms Coffey, the Member for Stockport since 1992, called for an "urgent independent inquiry" into the use of juries in rape cases in the UK in a bid to "forge a better public understanding of rape myths".

 

Ann Coffey: 'I was asking for a review on the whole criminal justice system'

Joining Matthew Wright on talkRADIO, Ms Coffey said her speech on Wednesday morning was also asking for a review on the whole criminal justice system.

“Let’s be clear what I was asking for this morning, I was asking for a review on the whole criminal justice system,” she said.

“This would include some controversial areas such as a review in the use of juries, jury vetting, current changes in the law, role of expert witnesses; a whole wide range of things that I wanted to be part of that review, the ministry of justice has already commissioned a review of rape cases with a jury.”

Co-host Kevin O’Sullivan stated that juries have been a key part of the UK justice system since King Henry II, almost 800 years ago.

“No system can actually unchallenged,” she said.

 

 

“The world changes and you’ve got to look at your criminal justice system in the context of the current life that there is, and life in the 21st century is very different than it was 800 years.

“Also, a lot of rape charges are by acquaintances from which people are known to each other.

“There are very very difficult issues of what consent means and there’s often no collaborative evidence.

“Some people do believe that women who have been raped act in a particular way, not all of them do that’s why there’s a role for expert witnesses.

“Some people believe that unless there are signs of resistance a woman can’t have been raped and there’s also issue of woman asking for it in the clothes they wear.

"What I’m saying here is we’ve obviously got an issue here and we need find out what is the reason juries are reluctant to convict this particular age range of 18 - 24-years-old."

 

Lowest level of charges in a 'decade'

 

 

Ms Coffey's motion came after she made a request for statistics from the Crown Prosecution Service regarding rape cases.

She said the number of men charged with rape in England and Wales had fallen to its lowest level in a decade, but police reports had risen in recent years.

Less than a third (32%) of prosecutions brought against men aged 18 to 24 in England and Wales resulted in a conviction in 2017/18, the figures showed.

By comparison, successful prosecutions against men aged 25 to 59 were significantly higher at 46%.

Ms Coffey noted the German and French court systems had a collaborative model for rape cases, with judges deciding cases with citizens.