Few in sex cases convicted

The Press 02/10/2009

Few men charged with serious sex offences are convicted, new research shows. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs yesterday released the findings of a two-year study analysing all adult sexual violation cases recorded by the police between July 2005 and December 2007. Research manager Denise Lievore said the study looked at why sexual violation cases did not continue through the different stages of the criminal process. The study found the overall conviction rate, based on 1955 recorded cases, was just 13 per cent. “It should be a wake-up call for everyone in New Zealand for the fact so few victims of sexual violation who go to court actually have cases that result in convictions,” Lievore said.

The study said that if a case got to court, reasons why it might not proceed through the system included a lack of corroborating evidence, the ability of the defence to discredit the victim, the inability of the prosecution to challenge the right of the accused to remain silent, and jury members’ lack of understanding of the nature of sexual violation and the legal definition of consent. “Only about one in 10 sexual violation offences are even reported, so we are really only seeing the tip of the iceberg of sexual offending when we look at the conviction rate,” Lievore said.