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Why Labour MP is wrong to call for juries to be scrapped in rape cases

Labour MP Ann Coffey has called on the government to examine whether juries are the best way to deliver justice in rape cases.

In a debate today, the House of Commons heard how juries may need to be scrapped in rape trials because of the dominance of rape myths in society and “shockingly low” charging and conviction rates.
The debate came after it was revealed that less than a third of prosecutions brought by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) against young men result in a conviction.

Solicitor Chris Saltrese, Managing Partner of Chris Saltrese Solicitors, specialises in defending contested sexual offence allegations.

Commenting on Anne Coffey’s proposals he said:

“I fear Ms Coffey may be looking down the wrong end of the telescope. Has she ever considered that the low conviction rate might be the result of the CPS bringing weak cases which juries reject?

“False allegations of rape are far more widespread that Ms Coffey appears to believe – and some of these false claims are rightly being rejected by juries.

“Rape and other sexual offences should certainly not be treated differently from other serious criminal offences and so they should still be heard by juries who, as with non-sexual offences, should reach verdicts based on the consistency and cogency of the evidence.

“But the real story in the statistics is in the huge differential between older and younger defendants – significantly the statistics don’t even include the over 59s – which shows that the younger defendants have a huge acquittal rate but the older a huge conviction rate.

“Since there are no statistics on the age of alleged offences – a scandalous omission – we don’t know why. The clear inference is that the older age groups are being convicted of historical child sexual abuse offences – often on oral testimony alone – while the younger defendants are involved in contemporaneous consent cases, where there is typically plenty of real evidence for or against.

“The point is that these historical cases are unfairly tried. Less evidence, such as emotive oral testimony alone, may result in conviction. Whereas juries tend to give the benefit of doubt on contemporaneous consent cases where there is actual evidence.

“The CPS appear to be pursuing historical cases disproportionately because ‘less is more’ in terms of convictions. But this is not justice.”