Law commission

Law Commission to examine impact of ‘rape myths’ on criminal proceedings

Katie, 35, sexual abuse victim from Worcestershire. Waiting lists for victims of rape and serious sexual assault have reached their longest record, with some people having to wait two years for specialist support and advocacy.

A project to counter misconceptions surrounding sexual abuse at trial has been announced by the Law Commission.

The legal review body project will also assess how evidence is used in the prosecution of sexual offences.

It comes after a review of how the criminal justice system handles rape cases found that one in two victims who say they have been raped have withdrawn from the investigation.

In June, the government’s “rape review” found that rape charges, prosecutions and convictions had declined over the past five years, although the prevalence of sex crimes remained stable.

The Law Commission’s new review will examine the law, guidelines and practice relating to trial in the prosecution of sexual offenses – including rape – and examine the need for reform.

The project aims to increase understanding of consent and sexual abuse and improve the treatment of victims, while ensuring that defendants receive a fair trial.

Justice Minister Victoria Atkins said the review will look closely at how to improve the trial process by ensuring that only relevant evidence is used and that harmful misconceptions – known as “myths of rape” – about these crimes are “relegated to the past”.

She said: “It is vital that victims of rape and sexual violence have confidence in the justice system and are treated with the utmost fairness in court.

“This important review will look closely at how to improve the trial process – ensuring that only relevant evidence is used and that harmful misconceptions about these crimes are a thing of the past.

“We are grateful to the Law Commission for doing this work, which builds on the government’s action plan to transform the response to rape and increase the volume of cases going through the system.”