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‘Not One Sexual Assault or Rape Conviction in 12 years,’ Says Surrey Women’s Refuge CEO

Published on: 10 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 10 Nov, 2021

Charlotte Kneer, CEO of Reigate and Banstead Women\’s Aid (RBWA) on C4 Dispatches. Image: Channel 4

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

The chief of a Surrey charity says she has not seen a single sexual assault or rape conviction in the 12 years she has worked in women’s refuges.

Charlotte Kneer, who has worked at Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid (RBWA) since 2009, appeared last night in the audience of The Rape Debate: Who’s on Trial?

The Channel 4 programme had a special audience entirely made up of women who have experienced rape or sexual assault and waived their legal right to anonymity.

They shared their disappointment with the criminal justice system, with many saying on reporting their perpetrator’s crime they were made to feel on trial themselves and also that prosecution was unrealistic.

Ms Kneer, who runs three refuges across Surrey for women and children fleeing severe domestic abuse, told the debate: “I’ve run women’s refuges for 12 years. I’ve never seen a single sexual assault or rape conviction in that time.

“How can this be, that I’ve not seen a single conviction?”

Surrey Police said it takes all allegations of rape and sexual assault seriously and “always carry out a thorough investigation and where able, bring those responsible to justice”.

Outside of the programme she said: “None of the women who have been through the most horrific things that most people couldn’t even imagine, have ever heard a guilty verdict.”

She said most cases did not make it to court because the police or Crown Prosecution Service had decided there was not enough evidence.

Some officers did not have “the appetite to investigate something they think is going to end up marked No Further Action,” she said, and when a case is dropped it makes women feel like “they weren’t worth fighting for or that no one believes them”.

“These women have been stripped of their right to choose by rapists. Our legal system should not be perpetuating the loss of their right to be heard.”

Responding to Ms Kneer in Monday’s debate, former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal said that to address the low conviction rate would take more than police training.

“It leads into the question about the society we’re in,” said Mr Afzal, whose prosecutions include the so-called Rochdale grooming gang.

“The 12 members of the jury are 12 members of the public, so the patriarchy, misogyny, the hatred of women, the expectation that women have to dress a certain way – they bring those assumptions and prejudices into the jury room.”

The latest Surrey Police performance report shows more serious sexual offences are being reported, which includes rape and sexual assault offences, while outcomes are getting worse.

Eight per cent of the 1,819 serious sexual offences reported in Surrey in the 12 months up to July 2021 had a solved outcome.

This does not tell us if there was a conviction but generally just means someone was charged or cautioned. It compares with 13.9 per cent of all types of offences having a solved outcome.

The solved outcome rate for serious sexual offences is down by 1.2 percentage points over this time period, compared with a reduction of 0.75 percentage points for all offences overall.

The overall trend in the year to July 2021 was for a lower crime rate – a reduction of 7.4 per cent recorded offences on the previous year. But when it comes to serious sexual offences, they buck the trend, having gone up 14.6 per cent although Surrey Police says the county has the second-fewest reports of rape and sexual offences in the country.

The Surrey Police spokesman said: “We are making progress on the number of cases that have a positive outcome but it is far from where we want it to be.”

He said a number of challenges included “evidential issues” and in an effort to build stronger cases and increase the number of cases going to court Surrey Police are involved in a pilot project with the Crown Prosecution Service in which “prosecutors and investigators are working together at a much earlier stage”.

He added: “In the last few years we have invested in dedicated Sexual Offence Liaison Officers to improve the care given to victims.” These have an enhanced level of specialist training and were funded through increased council tax.

Support is available at www.rbwa.org.uk/ and from the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre at www.rasasc.org/

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test One Response to ‘Not One Sexual Assault or Rape Conviction in 12 years,’ Says Surrey Women’s Refuge CEO

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    November 10, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    This is the most disgusting stat I have seen in some time.

    When will society start educating men so they do not commit these awful crimes rather than keep blaming the woman or child?

    • Jim Allen Reply

      November 11, 2021 at 9:34 am

      Why blame ALL men for the crimes of the very very few? The majority of men don’t need “educating” on how to behave in polite society.

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