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'Poor ' rate of conviction for rape cases.

Byline: Claire Miller Trinity Mirror Data Unit editorial@examiner.co.uk

FEWER rape defendants in West Yorkshire are pleading guilty, and the conviction rate is one of the lowest in the country.

The proportion of defendants pleading guilty has dropped by 42% in a year, from 28.7% in 2013 to 16.7% in 2014, according to figures released after a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice.

Overall, less than a third of rape cases proceeded against in court (31.3%) in West Yorkshire led to a conviction in 2014, one of the lowest conviction ratios in England and Wales.

The level of guilty pleas in rape trials across England and Wales is much lower than in other crown court trials and dropping, and while more people are being prosecuted, the conviction rate is falling.

Just 16% of rape cases that went to trial at the crown court in 2014 saw the defendant plead guilty. This was down from 19% in 2013.

In comparison, 2014/15 figures from the Crown Prosecution Service show guilty pleas are made in 83% of crown court trials. Both of these figures exclude cases that are dropped for other reasons.

The overall conviction rate for rape cases proceeded against in court is 32.9% in England and Wales, down from 36.4% in 2013.

However, the number of prosecutions was up 14.8% in a year, from 3,081 in 2013 to 3,538. So despite nearly 500 more prosecutions, there were just 43 extra convictions.

Rape defendants in Northamptonshire were most likely to plead guilty, with 39% doing so, those in Cambridgeshire were the least likely to, with just one out of 31 (3.2%) entering a guilty plea.

The chance of a rape defendant being found guilty are also lower than the average, with 35.1% found guilty after a trial, compared to 53.7% of defendants in all crown court trials.

Both of these have dropped since 2013, when they were 39.5% and 58.5% respectively.

Rape is an indictable offence, which can only be heard in the crown court. But just 70% of cases heard actually make it to either a guilty plea or a trial.

The gap between the number of cases that are proceeded against and the number of trials, may be due to cases being dropped at either magistrates or crown court level or the prosecution agreeing to accept a guilty plea to a lesser charge, which means they would no longer be counted in these figures.

The Ministry of Justice said: "The number of sex offenders convicted for rape offences in 2014 was the highest in a decade, and they are now receiving longer sentences than ever before.

The average sentence length for rape offenders in 2014 was 119 months, an increase of 22 months since 2010.

"Tough sentencing options are available to the courts, including a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual crime."

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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 12, 2015
Words:502
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