There are many problems with rape trials, and I’m sure that there are far more educated and informed individuals than I that can speak about them.
The burden of proof, because of the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty”, relies on the accuser, the victim, to do all the work in the case and relive a harrowing set of circumstances in the face of someone questioning their recollection of events and, sometimes more than that, their integrity.
Practically speaking, a rape is usually something that happens between two people in private. There are no witnesses, and so it is one person’s word against another’s.
There is the difficult chicken and egg situation of a staggeringly low 5.7% conviction rate from reported rapes meaning that a good deal more probably aren’t reported at all. However, in 2014 at least, from the figures I can find, 58% of reported rapes that went to court resulted in convictions, which is about par with other crimes.
Enter the case of Liam Allan. Allan was accused of raping a girl repeatedly. He was bailed for two years before a trial which collapsed after it emerged that the Police had failed to hand over evidence to the CPS. That evidence was text messages from the accuser to friends saying that she fantasised about being raped (I’m not saying this is a defence in all cases, but it was important in this one) and that things that happened between her and the accused were with both parties’ consent.
When one goes in to the details that the press have reported, you can’t help but agree with the suspicion of Allan that in sex-offence cases convictions have become “like sales targets”. You question why the messages were not released to CPS and the defence teams, and the only possible answer given how explicit they are is that it was to be a massaging of numbers.
In much less serious instances than this, I’ve always alluded to trials being a process to fully establish facts and make a decision on guilt or innocence. That shouldn’t be confused, though, with the fact that when a defendant appears in front of a jury, it is the proverbial “he” that is being tried and not the system.
If the system does not satisfactorily achieve what we would like it to, it should not be remedied at the expense of individuals lives by falsely engineering the figures.
Perhaps I’m biassed, and some might say that it’s easy for me to say as a man, but I tend to trust legal processes, not least because I can trust the processes behind them to make sure that justice is served somewhere along the line. I have faith that when cases get to court, the right decision is usually found. It makes me far more cynical, though, when the people actively involved in those processes don’t share my trust.