This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

Keir Starmer orders change in dealing with rape claim retraction cases

In the Media

Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer acknowledges legal 'failings' in recent rape claim case

Afua Hirsch
The Guardian, Thursday 16 December 2010
Article history

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, has ordered a change in the way in which rape claim retraction cases are dealt with.

The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has ordered a change in the way government lawyers deal with cases against women who withdraw rape claims, acknowledging "failings" in the handling of a recent victim.

In his first public statement since a woman was freed from jail last month after being convicted of perverting the course of justice for retracting a rape claim, the chief prosecutor in England and Wales has said that from now on, similar cases will require his personal approval.

Writing in the Guardian, Starmer has admitted that prosecutors have failed to ensure justice, and need to improve their handling of retraction cases.

He said: "There have been cases recently where … I do not consider justice was done or was seen to be done. Apologies and legal explanations offer scant comfort to a victim and the public are rightly reluctant to place their trust in public authorities unwilling to accept their failings.

"We need to work on our approach in retraction cases. From now on, my approval for charging will be needed in these cases and we will monitor them closely. If the victim has decided to withdraw a rape allegation, we must explore the issues behind that, particularly if the victim is under pressure or frightened."

The statement echoes comments by Lord Judge, the lord chief justice, who last month ruled on the case of "Sarah", a woman who was convicted of perverting the course of justice. Sarah, whose case was widely reported in the Guardian, 's conviction came despite judges' belief that her claim of long-term abuse, intimidation and rape at the hands of her husband was true.

Overturning her sentence on appeal, Judge stated that the courts should "recognise and allow for the pressures in which the truthful complainant in such a relationship has been exposed". He said that women who were raped by a husband or partner whose behaviour involved "dominance, power and control over her" became "extremely vulnerable". There should be a "broad measure of compassion" for a woman who had been "victimised," the lord chief justice added.

Starmer's decision to personally approve cases where a woman faces prosecution for retracting rape claims is unusual, with only a handful of other offences involving such checks: double jeopardy, assisted suicide and a few other complex cases.

In a more general acknowledgment of failings by prosecutors, Starmer referred to another case in which prosecutors abandoned a rape case as a "serious mistake".

The complainant, who was awarded £16,000 in damages for prosecutors' handling of her case, said she was "put through hell" when the CPS decided to drop the case against her attacker without consulting her, and then claimed the case's collapse was partly her fault http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2010/sep/20/dpp-apologises-woman-courts.

Reiterating his public apology to Sarah, Starmer said prosecutors would do more to ensure improvement in the way rape victims were treated. "Apologies and explanations should only be the beginning of a process intended to ensure future improvement. Myths and stereotypes have no place in a criminal justice system underpinned by basic human rights."

But campaigners said that women were still being betrayed by the criminal justice system. Lisa Longstaff, of Women Against Rape, said: "We are working with several women who have been wrongly accused of making a false allegation of rape – their conviction is a miscarriage of justice resulting from a negligent and biased investigation into their rape. One of these prosecutions went ahead despite our raising it with Mr Starmer. Will his personal involvement bring these injustices to an end, or merely reinforce them?"
 

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