A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases

February 24, 2005


This report documents the largest and most up to date study of attrition in reporting rape in the UK.

The study involved prospective tracking of 3,500 rape cases through the criminal justice system, supplemented by data from 228 complainants and 120 professionals.

The results show an ongoing decline in the conviction rate for reported rape cases, with Home Office figures reaching an all-time low of 5.6 per cent in 2002.

Three-quarters of the sample reported to the police. However, 80% of these cases did not proceed beyond the police stage due to a combination of no criming, evidential issues and victims withdrawing their support from the criminal justice process. Only a minority of cases reached the trial stage, and here an acquittal was the more likely outcome, especially with respect to adults. Alcohol was implicated in a high proportion of cases but drugs were involved in relatively few.

The extremely low conviction rate suggests there is a chasm between complainants’ expectations of the criminal justice process and what it actually delivers. However, in identifying six attrition pints, and the issues associated with them, this study finds that attrition can be conceived of as a series of smaller gaps, each of which could be addressed through targeted interventions.

Available to view at the Home Office website.

Project: Understanding of Attrition, Decreasing Early Withdrawals and Developing Best Practice for Reporting Rape

Available from: The Home Office. Email: publications.rds@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk


  • Authors:
    Liz Kelly, Jo Lovett, Linda Regan