109 women prosecuted for false rape claims in five years, say campaigners
Charity accuses authorities in the UK of pursuing cases against rape complainants more aggressively than other countries
At least 109 women have been prosecuted in the last five years for making false rape allegations in the UK, according to campaigners who are calling for an end to what they claim is the aggressive pursuit of such cases.
On Tuesday, the charity Women Against Rape
(War) is taking its campaign to the House of Commons, where some of those who have been jailed for lying about rape allegations will speak out against their treatment by the authorities.
The vast majority of the convictions in the last five years, 98 out of 109, involved prosecutions for perverting the course of justice – which carries a maximum life jail term – rather than the lesser offence of wasting police time, which has a maximum tariff of six months in prison or a fine.
A US law professor, who will be speaking at the Commons, said the UK’s stance on false allegations is more aggressive than in countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia. Prof Lisa Avalos, of the University of Arkansas, said false allegations in the US were dealt with as a misdemeanour offence, not a felony – and most women were not jailed if found guilty.
“In the course of my research I have not found any country that pursues these cases against women rape complainants in the way the UK does. The UK has an unusual approach and I think their approach violates human rights,” she said.
In 2012/13 there were 3,692 prosecutions for rape in England and Wales, resulting in 2,333 convictions.
WAR says it is supporting several women who say they were forced into retracting their rape complaint by police and then told they would be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
But Prof Claire Ferguson, a forensic criminologist from the University of New England in New South Wales, Australia, said it was not the norm to prosecute women for false allegations and that only those in the most egregious cases were charged, often where the accused man had spent time in custody.
“There have been cases in Australia where people have been accused, then nothing ever happens to the accuser, even though the police believe the report is indeed false.
“This can be hugely problematic and has led to many personal and professional issues for the accused [including suicide], even when the police have proven that they did nothing wrong and are not a sex offender,” she said.