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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Baroness Stern and false allegations

104 replies

LondonSun · 22/06/2010 21:48

We were (all) outraged when Cameron used Stern's report to infer that there are lots of false allegations of rape a couple of weeks ago. (defending proposal granting rape defendants anonymity)

I questioned her about it at the Rights of Women conference today and she said SHE DOES NOT THINK THAT THERE ARE LOTS OF FALSE ALLEGS, PROBABLY ONLY A HANDFUL EACH YEAR.

She said she though that research into false allegs would prove how few there are, not how many there are.

So that's something.

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Prolesworth · 22/06/2010 21:55

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LondonSun · 22/06/2010 22:12


I spoke to another mum last night whose daughter's in prison for making a false allegation. Completely heartbreaking. She said the police disbelieved her from the beginning and turned on her after about five days of investigating (she was raped by two strangers)

Unbelievable. So unbelievable it'll be hard to ever make people understand that you can report rape and end up in prison yourself.

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dittany · 22/06/2010 22:25

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LondonSun · 22/06/2010 22:33

Thanks both! I've done a FOI request to find out how many women have been prosecuted/ convicted but the home office don't track it so my request was turned down.

I've trawled he internet to find out how many women have been prosecuted in the last year and have a spreadsheet of around 25-30 women. I figure that all false allegation prosecutions at least make it into the local press as the media LOVE these cases.

I've spoken to two women who were sentenced to two years directly and the mother of another young woman who is in prison at the moment. All three sound like cases where the women were disbelieved and then discredited as a result of police prejudices or police negligence.

I am also planning to write to 6 or 7 women who are currently in prison, but am still trying to find out which prisons they are in.

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LondonSun · 22/06/2010 22:35

p.s. I am not saying that false allegations do not happen, I just think they are very very rare.

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dittany · 22/06/2010 23:53

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sethstarkaddersmum · 23/06/2010 10:17

the prison sentence makes absolutely no sense to me in the Gail Sherwood case. Even if it had been true that she had made it up (and I don't think she did, but that's another discussion), she would have done so out of character and with no apparent motive, which would surely be a mental health matter rather than a criminal one. And even if one was going to go down the criminal route there are a number of other sentences that would surely be more appropriate given that it would have been a first offence and she would hardly have been a danger to anyone. It looks vindictive to me - either against her or against women who report rape in general.

so glad you are doing something LondonSun.

earwicga · 26/06/2010 01:08

Like dittany, I am also very impressed with your work on this. I find the case of Gail Sherwood very distressing and am shocked that there are lots more cases like this.

LondonSun · 26/06/2010 12:53

Thanks for the support all. I am a volunteer for Women Against Rape. (Here I am writing in a personal capacity)

I started working with WAR about two years ago- I'd just reported rape to the police and was horrified by the experience. They made lots of inappropriate comments, were very quick to believe his version of events, and didn't gather any of the evidence they said they would. As a result he wasn't charged.

When I first started volunteering at WAR I thought they were really extreme in the views, and couldn't understand how it could be that SO many women were being treated so appallingly by the police. But after speaking to many women about their experience of report sexual violence to the police, I've realised that the issues are always consistent: women are not taken seriously and rape allegations are not investigated properly.

Whilst I appreciate that we only hear from the women where its gone wrong, i think its outrageous that there are so many women being let down. Reporting rape to the police is so difficult and not being believed just messes with your head even more.

We supported Gail Sherwood for eighteen months before she went to court-- for many reasons that I've mentioned before, we are convinced that she is the victim of a huge miscarriage of justice. I've met two other women who were prosecuted after reporting rape, and one of them ended up in prison. I visited her there and it was utterly heartbreaking. I've also spoken to the mother of a girl who is in prison, and yet again it apppears that the prosecution is the results of another botched investigation.

I know that some women do make malicious allegations, but I'm worried that there are only a handful of women who do this, and there are many women who are being failed by the justice system. Reporting rape is really tough, reporting rape then being accused of making it up and prosecuted is just beyond comprehension.

I've met lots of women who have been disbelieved and whose cases weren't investigated and I am concerned that the trend towards prosecuting women is an extension of this. Plus I think the authorities actually benefit from these prosecutions- as long as the Daily Mail keeps reporting them, the myth that there are lots of false allegatons is perpetuated, the authorities can blame these women for the low conviction rate and the police/ CPS don't get pulled up.

The thing that gets me the most, is that the judges always say "allegations such as yours ruins the plight for REAL rape victims"

Imagine someone saying that to you if you hd actually been raped. It would finish me off.

So thats why I'm doing the research. Women who make false allegations are the most vilified group in society-- we need to get to the bottom of whats driving these prosecutions... and soon.

The government have started their research into the prevalence of false allegations but it concerns me. The research will be based on the police definition of false allegations... and I don't think their definition is valid. One police officer said that there are police who think that any investigation where they can't find a suspect is a false allegation.

I think its unlikely that the government are going to run focus groups with women who've made "false allegations"... I thinks its unlikely that the government I going to consider these women at all. I imagine David cameron wants the figure to be as high as possible so he doesn't look like a shit for proposing anonymity for rape defendants

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LondonSun · 26/06/2010 13:16

Oh and the only thing I forgot to mention is the people who would completely disagree with me (i.e. those who think that there are loads of false allegations, that we hate all men, that we don't care if guilty men go to prison, and that we think all men are rapists) There are a lot of these people.

I think that in a way these people should be arguing for the same changes as us-- that the police investigate crimes properly. If this was the case guilty men would go to prison and innocent men would not. If people had faith in the justice system the "no smoke without fire" argument wouldn't be appropriate.

Warren Blackwell didn't spend three years in prison coz a woman falsely accused him, he spent three years in prison because the police f*cked up the investigation.

I don't think all men are rapists, and I certainly don't want innocent men to go to prison.

I don't hate all men, in fact I'm completely in love with one

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earwicga · 26/06/2010 13:49

That's a brilliant point - the only reason innocent people are in prison is because the police made mistakes! Worth repeating again and again!

Has the government actually comissioned research as if they have then the terms of reference should be available? I'd be interested to know how they frame the title and the research!

Prolesworth · 26/06/2010 14:13

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earwicga · 26/06/2010 15:58

That's another good point Prolesworth - just WHO will be heading an inquiry, if indeed there is one?

ImSoNotTelling · 26/06/2010 21:08

Great posts londonsun.

Parts of what you have said ring very true for me and I actually feel sick to my stomach thinking about all of the things that you have pointed out.

I am also a bit dubious as to whether people who lie about other crimes end up in prison. The study that I saw the other day said that of the few false allegations, most were made by women who were mentally ill (and did not name anyone as they wanted the attention not for anyone to actually get caught) - why are we sending women like this to prison?

And I am sure that the points about the police immediately starting an investigation of the woman are correct.

The whole thing makes my blood run cold.

ImSoNotTelling · 26/06/2010 21:08

And at talking to Baroness Stern, you are doing fantastic work londonsun

HerBeatitude · 26/06/2010 21:13

Can we get figures on how many people are sent to prison for lying about other crimes as part of the investigation?

Because I would bet money that "false" rape allegations disproportionately result in prison.

I really don't know what women can do about rape without becoming vigilantes - not only do we know that the men who rape us won't be punished, we are now faced with the prospect of being sent to prison ourselves, if we dare to complain about them raping us.

hambo · 26/06/2010 21:18

"the only reason innocent people are in prison is because the police made mistakes! Worth repeating again and again!"

Not strictly true - The police just present their findings and the legal system takes over - ie lawers. Often evidence is lost or documents not filled out correctly or the lawer is just not interested.

If a woman made a claim and they didnt take it to court their would be uproar. Surely the lawers have to present their cases and this must influence whether a man goes to prison or not.

it is too easy to blame the police I think.

HerBeatitude · 26/06/2010 21:22

But hambo, the police present their findings and their findings are often the result of incompetent, half hearted and cock eyed investigations which went from the starting point that the woman who is complaining about being raped, is lying. So naturally, their findings are worthless, because they make damned sure they're worthless.

beeny · 26/06/2010 21:23

I represented a woman who made a false allegation of rape she told me she would not have done it if the alleged rapist had got her some flowers and chocolates.I have about ten cases in 15 years not all have been prosecuted.

HerBeatitude · 26/06/2010 21:26

Which isn't to let lawyers etc. off the hook either - but the reason it's easy to blame the police, is because the police are often atrociously at fault.

hambo · 26/06/2010 21:27

The thing is, if the investigations are so "incompetent, half hearted and cock eyed " then why can the lawyer for the innocent party find a way to show the truth?

The police get a hard time but there are lots of hard working people in the force trying their best. And being frustrated by the outcomes of their hard work.

hambo · 26/06/2010 21:28


Prolesworth · 26/06/2010 21:33

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hambo · 26/06/2010 21:38

I'm sure you are right Prole...just wanted to say that they (the police) are part of a huge process and to put the blame soley on them is really not on.

There are lots of unsubstantiated allegations here and points of view which have been made by people who are frankly anti police.

HerBeatitude · 26/06/2010 21:42

Why can't the lawyer find a way to get to the truth?

Because they don't have superpowers. They are dependent on the police to find the evidence - that's the job of the police, not the lawyer. The lawyer's job is to present the evidence, not to find it.

The police aren't doing their job properly. No one doubts that there are excellent police officers doing a tough job, but that doesn't alter the fact that women have to accept the fact that if a man decides to rape them, there is usually nothing they can do about it - they just have to put up with it and accept that the law will not operate in this instance. And part of the reason for that (but by no means the whole reason, of course), is the fact that the police simply are not doing their job properly when it comes to rape.

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