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Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird welcomes Sir John Gillen’s interim report on the way rape is dealt with in the courts

22nd November 2018

Dame Vera Baird has today welcomed the interim report of Sir John Gillen, a retired High Court Judge about the improvement of rape trials.

His review of how the criminal justice system deals with rape followed the controversial case of rape against two rugby players in Northern Ireland and the grave concerns that it raised. Sir John makes sixteen core recommendations with a further number of subsidiary ones. The report is interim and is out for consultation until January.

Dame Vera said, “Sir John makes a number of wise and far-reaching recommendations which would be profoundly effective in ensuring better rape and sexual abuse trials both in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland. Currently only a tiny fraction people who are raped complain to the police and conviction rates are exceptionally low, far more so than in any other kind of case”.

In his report, Sir John states he would tackle the under-reporting of rape by making available to complainants free legal advice and, where appropriate, legal representation so that they may be heard on questions such as disclosure of intimate material about themselves, the admission into cases of their previous sexual history.

Dame Vera added “These are issues which currently deter victims from coming forward and if inappropriately used in trails can profoundly re-traumatise those who do. As Sir John writes, 40% of people who report rape regret their decision after attending court. He acknowledges the presence of myths and stereotypes and has firm proposals for dealing with them, requiring a more robust approach to case management  from the judiciary. He is clear that post-charge publication of defendants name is essential.  All in all Sir John‘s report shows an excellent understanding of the issues in these trials today. He calls for the government to assess the costs of implementation, whilst citing the current costs of rape and sexual offences to the nation as £12.2 billion*.”

These figures are unsurprising in light of a report from the Home Office for England and Wales in July 2018, Economic and Social Costs of Crime. This

document recorded the estimated annual cost of rape in 2015/16 prices was4.8 billion (for an estimated 121,750 rapes) and for other sexual offences (an

estimated 1,137,320 crimes) 7.4 billion.