Closed petition Require jurors in rape trials to complete mandatory training on rape myths

Research shows that many jurors accept widely held false beliefs about rape, rapists and victims.

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These 'rape myths' can influence decision making in trials. To give victims a fair chance at obtaining justice we want jurors to complete mandatory training on rape myths prior to sitting on rape trials.

Currently, less than 1% of reported rapes leads to a conviction. And the police and CPS rarely put forward cases they think won't convince a jury; while police recorded 67,125 rapes in 2021 only 1,557 of these were sent to trial.

As studies show that jurors who accept rape myths are more likely to issue not guilty verdicts, dispelling rape myths in juries is key to ensuring fair trials and improving low conviction rates.

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Government responded

This response was given on 23 February 2024

In rape trials, judges are permitted to give directions to jurors to counter any potential misconceptions. Guidance and training for jurors are a matter for the judiciary and the Judicial College.

Read the response in full

This government is committed to ensuring that all victims of sexual offences have the chance to receive the justice they deserve. This is why the Government published its End-to-end Rape Review and Rape Review Action Plan in June 2021, committing to transform the way the entire criminal justice system responds to adult rape offences.

The End-to-end Rape Review set stretching initial targets to return the volumes of adult rape cases reaching court to 2016 levels – in practice more than doubling the number of cases reaching court compared to 2019, when the Review was first commissioned. Setting these ambitions against 2016 levels made them hugely stretching; 2015 and 2016 marked the years where we saw the most adult rape cases being prosecuted and convicted since 2010.

We have already exceeded each of these initial targets. We have more than doubled the number of people being prosecuted for an adult rape offence since 2019, when we first commissioned the Rape Review, up by 149% (from 1,410 to 2,165). In addition, the number of people convicted for adult rape cases has been steadily increasing. Since 2019, adult rape convictions are up 19%. It is also important to note that this petition’s claim that only 1% of reported rapes lead to conviction is incorrect.

Within this Action Plan, the Government set out its commitment to ensure that only evidence about the victim that is pertinent to the case is used at court so that a victim’s credibility is not undermined by pre-conceptions or rape myths.

Within rape trials, judges are currently permitted, following guidance issued by the Judicial College, to give directions to jurors to counter any potential misconceptions. They are empowered to give both general warnings about false assumptions and stereotyping in sexual offence cases, and more specific directions addressing particular stereotypes or false assumptions.

This is also recognised in the updated Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance on rape and sexual offences, published in May 2021. The CPS has recently published research on the public understanding of rape myths and consent, with the aim to use this research to re-evaluate CPS court communication on the issue. CPS are also exploring the merits of toolkits and training for prosecutors on rape myths.

The Government has also asked the independent Law Commission to carry out a review of the current law and guidance related to the use of evidence in prosecutions of sexual offences. They launched a public consultation, which concluded in September 2023, which specifically considered the current law and guidance designed to counter misconceptions about sexual harm. We expect the final report to be delivered in Autumn this year, at which point we will closely review and respond to their recommendations.

Similarly to evidence and behaviour at court, the investigation of rape must also be no different to any other crime, with a focus on the behaviour of the suspect, not the victim. To this end, the Home Office invested £9.4 million in a project, ‘Operation Soteria’, to develop a new National Operating Model for the investigation of rape.

This model provides officers access to better tools to improve their decision-making processes and ensure the focus of their inquires remain solely on the suspect. This includes considering how suspects may have planned their offending, selected the victim, or have a previous track record of problematic or predatory behaviour irrespective of whether they have received a previous conviction. Furthermore, it supports officers to disregard irrelevant circumstances that may impede a suspect-focused investigation, such what they were wearing, or how they initially reacted to the incident.

Findings from the Operation Soteria Year 1 report (published in December 2022) emphasised the importance of investigators with specialist knowledge, skills, and capability to reduce the impact of misconceptions about rape on investigations.

The Government is committed to ensuring that victims get the justice they deserve, including taking action to combat rape myths, and are continuing to look at ways we can improve the criminal justice process for all.

Ministry of Justice