Unblurred Lines

The Independent publishes my corrections request re: Crown Prosecution Service’s skewed statistics on rape convictions

Last week, I blogged about the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) having exaggerated the 2015-16 rape conviction rate.

Via a press release, the CPS claimed that it was “convicting more cases of rape…than ever before,” with “a rise in the rape conviction rate [from 56.9] to 57.9 per cent.”

These figures were widely reported in the UK press, including the Independent newspaper.

the-independent-cps-rape-conviction-rate-2015-16

Via the WayBack Machine, the Independent’s Sept. 6 article

However, a close look at the CPS’ 2015-16 Violence Against Women and Girls crime report reveals that the rape conviction rate “includes cases initially flagged as rape [but] where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence” and “where a rape charge is subsequently amended.”

On Sept. 17, I made a corrections request to the Independent regarding “Revenge porn prosecutions number ‘more than 200’ just 18 months after law change,” the newspaper’s Sept. 6 article which, as per the above screenshot, stated that “in 2015/16…There were a record numbers of rape prosecutions (4,643) and convictions (2,689).”

Yesterday, I received notification from the Independent’s readers’ liaison assistant Jane Campbell that the article has been updated.

Dear Mr Jones,

Thank you for contacting us via our online complaints form. We are always glad to hear from our readers, whether or not feedback is positive, and I am grateful to you for taking the time to get in touch about ‘Revenge porn prosecutions number ‘more than 200′ just 18 months after law change’ (6 September).

Your point is well taken and the article has now been changed to reflect that rape conviction figures also include cases where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence.

I hope that, in spite of your concerns on this occasion, you will continue to read and enjoy The Independent. And please do not hesitate to contact me again in the future should cause arise.

With best regards
Jane Campbell
Readers’ liaison assistant

Here’s what the article reads now:

the-independent-cps-rape-conviction-rate-2015-16-correction-1

the-independent-cps-rape-conviction-rate-2015-16-correction-2

Blurred Lines

UK prosecution service fudges the statistics on rape

Earlier this month, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) released its annual Violence Against Women and Girls crime report.¹ Via a press release, the CPS claimed that it was “convicting more cases of rape…than ever before,” with “a rise in the rape conviction rate [from 56.9] to 57.9 per cent.”

Despite the CPS’ own admission that it “does not collect data which constitutes official statistics as defined in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007,” figures from the press release were reported in several mainstream newspapers, including the Guardian and the Telegraph.

the-guardian-violence-against-women-and-girls-crime-report

However, a close look at the report itself reveals that the rape conviction rate includes “cases initially flagged as rape [but] where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence” and where a rape charge is subsequently amended.”

For example, the report states that there was a total of 2,689 rape convictions for the financial year 2015-16, yet according to statistics from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ),² there was only 1,297 rape convictions for the calendar year 2015 – a disparity of 1,392.

My questions:

• How many cases initially flagged as rape were later charged or convicted with a lesser crime? How many where the conviction was amended altogether?

• How many convictions were obtained in the period prior to the start of the financial year 2015-16? How many after the calendar year 2015?

Those are questions for a statistician better qualified than a C-grade maths student such as myself. In the meantime, I’ll ask the CPS about its methods of recording statistics and blog the results.

Stay tuned.

¹The report is also “inclusive of data on men and boys.”
²MOJ data “only includes cases where the final conviction was for rape.”