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COURTS SEE RAPE TAPES; Plan for police videos to be evidence.

Byline: By BOB ROBERTS Deputy Political Editor

HARROWING videos of rape victims taken just hours after the attack may be shown in court to improve conviction rates of one in 20.

Juries will be exposed to the full horror of sex attacks and the devastating impact on victims under the new plans unveiled yesterday.

Branding the conviction rate "unacceptably low", the Government's Solicitor General Mike O'Brien said it was time to help thousands more women get justice.

He said: "We are determined to do more to tackle barriers to the successful prosecution of rape.

"I think the more we can show the real evidence to the jury the better they are able to make a judgement.

"I am trying to give juries the best possible evidence available.

"If that evidence is the interview given to police shortly after reporting the rape, then the jury should be able to see that."

Government ministers are calling for a change in the law that will make the videos automatically admissible as evidence.

Permitting jurors to see the recordings may give "a more detailed and accurate account" of victims' experiences, a consultation paper says.

In 2004/05 there were 14,002 allegations of rape reported to police by both male and female victims.

However, there were just 791 convictions in 2004.

Other proposals include allowing psychologists to give evidence in court about the impact of an attack on a victim.

Experts would be able to tell juries it is common for people to blame themselves for being raped, or not to immediately report an attack.

The United States, Canada and Australia already allow juries to hear evidence from psychologists and other experts about rape victims' behaviour.

But Rape Crisis chairwoman Nicole Westmarland said the measures would only help a "small proportion" of women who were attacked.

She added: "Until there is adequate, long-term funding for rape crisis centres, the Government is continuing to fail women who are raped."

The new move comes as a separate report revealed rape victims suffer a "postcode lottery" over whether their attacker will be brought to justice.

In Northamptonshire 13.8 per cent of allegations made to police result in a conviction.

However, in Gloucestershire the figure is just 0.86 per cent.

bob.roberts@mirror.co.uk

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 30, 2006
Words:383
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