A national study of survivor, prosecutor and court responses to rape
This 4 year study into the causes of attrition in rape cases in Ireland addresses the dearth of information in this area. It has been difficult to develop a coherent response to the problem of rape in society without this comprehensive review of existing structures. This study fills that lacuna by reviewing materials from different points of the criminal justice system. It also further develops a more precise profile of rape in Ireland, and evaluates the experiences of those victims who chose to engage with the criminal justice system.
The RCNI went on a road show in the 4th quarter of 2010 with the Rape and Justice in Ireland (RAJI) research findings. This consisted of four regional seminars, a panel at a VAW conference and a seminar in partnership with NUIG called More than a Hangover: Youth, Alcohol and Rape in Ireland. Local Rape Crisis Centre’s chaired and co-hosted most of the events.
Speakers included the RAJI authors, the RCNI Legal Director and DI Declan Daly, the Head of An Garda Síochána Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit, amongst others. The findings of RAJI, the relationship with the National Strategy, the HSE strategy and the Garda Policy concerning sexual violence, and local practice were discussed.
The RCNI invited a specific and strategically selected audience. In all there were 380 participants from the NGO, HSE and Justice Sectors amongst others. A handbook was developed summarising key RAJI findings (500 copies disseminated) and the RAJI Executive Summary was available to all participants.
These seminars did more than achieve a deeper understanding of the RAJI findings. They achieved greater cross agency understanding and relationships were created and strengthened both locally and nationally.
An expert Advisory Group on alcohol, young people and rape is being set up to advise the RCNI. This is a very significant outcome of the seminar series and an indicator of the importance and urgency, both the RCNI and our partners attach to focusing on this aspect of RAJI findings.
Rape and Justice in Ireland, a groundbreaking book commissioned by the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, is the result of a four year independent research study into the process of prosecuting rape cases in Ireland.
This book is an important advance in our understanding of the reasons why so many rape cases are lost from the system during their progress from incident to reporting, to final court hearing, (the rate of attrition) resulting in very low conviction rates for rape in Ireland. The book also offers a unique insight into the Irish justice system as the authors were granted unprecedented access to the files of the DPP, the courts and the direct experiences of survivors of rape.
Part 1 examines the early stages of attrition in rape cases by tracking the experience of rape survivors up to the point where any file goes to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Part 2 focuses on the attrition rates at the next stage of the criminal justice process. It looks at a larger sample of case files already submitted to the DPP and performs a quantitative analysis on questionnaires on each file completed by DPP staff members. Part 3 describes the further process of attrition as rape cases move through the courts, using a retrospective methodology to analyse court records and trial transcripts over a four year period.
The key findings of this research expose the nature of the factors at play in navigating a rape case through the justice system. It shows how the quality of social and official support for survivors is vitally important in order to progress a case, and that survivors as well as officials tend to think and act in terms of real rape scenarios to the disadvantage of the majority of cases that do not fit that criteria. It also explores the factors that influence the DPPs decision to prosecute and those put forward in successful and unsuccessful court cases.
Rape and Justice in Ireland concludes with recommendations for comprehensive reform of the justice system to lead to more effective prosecution of rape cases, as well as concrete suggestions to help in the prevention of the crime. This is an important and pioneering book.
About the Authors
The lead author is Conor Hanly, lecturer in law at NUI Galway, with assistance from Dr. Deirdre Healy and Stacey Scriver. The Rape Crisis Network Ireland, the sponsors of the project, is the national representative and coordinating body for the rape crisis sector in Ireland and has 15 member rape crisis centres throughout the island.