Delayed review launched into rape complaints

By staff

The government has launched a review into how rape complaints are handled – a month after the original due date for publication.

The review was supposed to be published last month but was allegedly delayed after ministers were unable to reach agreement over what it should cover.

Sources had indicated that the delay was due to an 11th-hour intervention from women’s minister Harriet Harman, who did not think the remit of the original review was wide enough to effectively address women’s concerns.

Home secretary Alan Johnson and justice secretary Jack Straw were thought to oppose the move, but Ms Harman was rumoured to have received support from Vera Baird, the solicitor general.

The review, led by Baroness Stern, will look in particular at the attitudes and responses of public authorities to rape complaints.

Many victims of rape have complained that their allegations have not been taken seriously by the police and other local authorities.

The review comes in the wake of the recent conviction of two serial rapists – Kirk Reid and London taxi driver John Worboys – which exposed serious flaws in police investigations into sexual assault in the London area.

Speaking about the launch of the review today, Ms Harman said: “Convictions for rape have increased 50 per cent since 1997, but with less than seven per cent of reported rapes leading to a successful prosecution we clearly must do more.

“Many more women are reporting rapes, but the Reid and Worboys cases show that despite this these men were getting away with it time and time again.

“So I am concerned that we must have a systematic examination of the way rape complaints are handled: the Stern Review will help identify good practice and where those failures are happening so that we can take action.”

Recent figures have shown that although the number of rape convictions has risen in the past decade, the proportion of rape allegations that lead to a conviction has fallen.

Baroness Stern’s report is due to be published in the first few months of next year. She described the deadline to the BBC as “tight”.