Will I succeed?
In a recent Home Office study of all the ‘rapes of females’ (of any age) (100%), only 23% were prosecuted and only 13% ended in a conviction for some sexual offence (not necessarily rape).
It seems unlikely that 87% of rapes were wrongly reported. One reason for these figures is the way in which criminal law works. There is a presumption of innocence, which means that it is up to the prosecution to prove guilt, not up to defendant to prove innocence. Previous convictions cannot usually be presented to the court. The jury or magistrate hearing the case has to be convinced of the defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. This means that if they have even the slightest doubt, they have to find the defendant ‘not guilty’.
There is also the issue of evidence. Evidence can be oral, written, recorded, photographed etc. It is in the nature of most abuse that it happens in private and that very often the only evidence is the oral evidence of the victim. In other words, it comes down to the victim’s word against that of the defendant. This can be a difficult experience for victims, as they will be cross-examined by the defendant’s lawyer, whose job it is to make the court ‘doubt’ the guilt. S/he may try to discredit or confuse the victim in order to do this. The more evidence (i.e. social workers’ reports, other people being told at the time or being witnesses, medical evidence etc.) you have, the greater your chance of success.
Before making the decision to prosecute, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has to feel 60% certain that they will obtain a guilty verdict on the basis of the evidence. It is important to remember that they are not judging the truthfulness of the victim, but the strength of the evidence. This is a difficult point for most people. How can someone defend someone they believe is guilty? It isn’t the job of lawyers to judge guilt or innocence but to present and test evidence. Their personal beliefs are not allowed to interfere with their work and the jury or the magistrates do the judging.
The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL) will be able to put you in contact with a specialist in your area, who will be able to advise you on your particular case.