Thursday, August 07, 2008

Slow Response, Harassment And Dropped Charges

From the Waltham Forest Guardian:

THE mother of a 14-year-old girl who claims she was raped has hit out at police who took six weeks to contact potential witnesses.

And now, seven months after the alleged attack, police have decided to drop the case, saying there is “insufficient evidence” to prosecute. [...]

During this time the girl, according to her mother, was the target of verbal abuse, was spat at in the street and received threats – including some via Facebook, MSN and email – and was scared to leave home.

Police this week confirmed that a 16-year-old boy who was arrested on suspicion of rape and witness intimidation had been released from his police bail without charge.

The 6-week delay between the girl reporting and the police interviewing the suspect is unacceptable as it allows the suspect and others to coordinate what they will say to investigators.

Since much of the witness intimidation was reportedly done online, the police should have been able to confirm the authenticity of any evidence provided by this girl or her mother. Anyone who harassed or threatened this girl or her family after this girl reported being raped should be subject to prosecution and should be prosecuted aggressively.

If the witness tampering laws in the UK allow this type of harassment and threats, by either the suspect or by those who side with the suspect, those laws need to change.

“We advise all victims of any sexual offence to report the allegation to us as soon as possible to allow officers to gather as much evidence as possible to assist with the inquiry.”

Sluggish responses by the police and unchecked threats against someone who reported being raped make a mockery of any police force's call for all rape victims to report their rapes as soon as possible. The police need to stop telling victims to promptly report their rapes and start showing these rape victims why reporting won't put the victim in greater danger and subject to being wrongfully described as a rape liar.

In the US the so-called Jane Doe rape kits which will be required in January 2009 will help get forensic evidence collected which would otherwise not be collected. This will allow rape victims who don't know if it is safe to file a police report feel safe enough to go through a forensic exam.

However, this case happened in the UK so the barriers which discourage victims from getting forensic evidence collected depend on a variety of issues including the so-called UK postcode lottery.

Putting the responsibility for lack of sufficient evidence, especially forensic evidence, onto rape victims keeps law enforcement from seeing where they are failing rape victims and where they are helping rapists.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:09 AM   0 comments links to this post


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