UK Green MEP Jean Lambert has today welcomed government proposals to boost Britain's rape conviction rate but warned that until such a serious crime is seen as high-risk the number of rapes committed will continue to increase.
With over 50,000 rapes in the UK each year but only 600 rapists sent to jail Jean, who sits on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home affairs committee in the European Parliament, questioned why conviction of rape is so difficult. Jean said; "The rape prosecution figures for the UK are utterly shocking and although the governments proposals are a step in the right direction there is still an overwhelming fear and dissatisfaction of the whole prosecution process. Of 343 women, who said they had been raped, only 22 were satisfied with the police investigation. At least by allowing expert witnesses into courtrooms some of the pressure and fear will be taken off the victim.
"The boundaries and definition of sexual consent are currently so blurred that even the courts seem to have difficulty in convicting the perpetrator. Not only do we need to redefine the law on a person's ability to consent to sex but we must change attitudes surrounding what rape entails, what the victim and the rapists look like, their clothing and behaviour.
"With the increasing number of rapes committed we need to introduce issues of consent as part of education in schools. Such behaviour, whether stranger rape or domestic rape, cannot be seen as an acceptable crime.
"In 2003 women only had a 5.3% chance of seeing their rapist convicted. We now want the Government to look at specialist prosecution teams that really develop experience in dealing with such cases. There is still a lot more work to do however before women everywhere can have the confidence that their case will be taken seriously in every court throughout the UK."
Jean has campaigned for action against sexual exploitation, rape as a weapon of war and the trafficking of women and children since her election in 1999.
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Notes to editors:
Jean Lambert: In October 2005 Jean was named MEP 2005 for Justice and Human Rights. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections. She was re-elected in 2004. She is one of nine MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament.