Monday, March 23, 2009

Scotland Yard Failed Rape Victims Tight Budgets Blamed

From the Guardian:

One of Scotland Yard's elite sexual assault units has been condemned for serious failures after untrained officers were left investigating rapes, despite repeated pleas to management for more detectives.

An internal inquiry describes how cases were mishandled in a department that was "understaffed, underskilled and overburdened". It also documents claims by members of Southwark's Sapphire team that management treated car crime as a higher priority than sex offences, because it was under pressure to meet targets for solving cases. The percentage of rape allegations that end up in court is notoriously low.

Four officers are to be disciplined over the case of a teenager who alleged she had been raped in 2005. The report seen by the Guardian reveals that the suspect could have been arrested within days of her coming forward instead of three months later.
Officers never searched for forensic evidence at the scene of the alleged offence, and vital phone evidence was not obtained. The defendant was acquitted.

Two of the officers involved had previously been found responsible for failures in the case of the rape of a 13-year-old.

This type of widespread negligence clearly goes far beyond those on the frontline, who will incorrectly get the most blame. When untrained officers are given assignments they cannot fulfill competently then of course they will fail.

The root of this negligence even goes beyond the police leadership, it goes back to what injustices are considered acceptable. By the results, when it comes to rape widespread injustice is acceptable.

The acceptance of injustice can often happen through seemingly benign tolerance of problems such as this one. Too often people tolerate this type of injustice because they've been fooled into thinking that widespread competence can never be reached.

Those who don't want justice and competence in dealing with sex crimes actively work to support this belief. Or they claim that justice is only about protecting the wrongfully accused.

This excuse is nonsense or police wouldn't respond to reports of shots fired. Justice must be about protecting people from harm. And it must be about reducing the harm as much as possible. Competence is needed to maximize justice and to minimize injustice -- for everyone.

Unfortunately, the results of this particular negligence support the bigotry of many citizens in many countries.

After forensic evidence was lost, a defendant was cleared at trial which fits neatly into the bigotry against those who report having been raped. Lack of evidence to convict a rapist too often becomes sufficient evidence to assume a rape victim's guilt.

This gives us 2 injustices for the price of one. Rapists get away with rape and real rape victims get labeled by many people -- who claim to support justice and oppose injustice 100% -- as proven liars.

Problems that are too often dismissed as unimportant by those rant about high rates of false rape allegations can harm the very people they claim to be championing. Lost forensic evidence can destroy what would have been exonerating evidence to a man wrongfully IDed or who is the target of a fraudulent rape report.

The only people who are well served with this level of negligence are those who are guilty. And in rape cases the majority of those people are rapists. Citizens who tolerate this level of negligence are on a practical level supportive of rape even if they don't mean to do so.

We all need to stop tolerating this sort of negligence even if that tolerance is expressed only by our silence.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:07 AM   0 comments links to this post


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