With a record like this, Britain certainly lacks the credibility to point out women's rights abuses in other nations.
In Britain, Rape Cases Seldom Result in a Conviction
By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
In Britain, a nation whose justice system has been used as a model around the globe, government officials and women's rights activists agree that rape goes largely unpunished.
Solicitor General Vera Baird, who oversees criminal prosecutions in England, estimated that 10 to 20 percent of rapes are brought to authorities' attention. According to government figures, 14,000 cases a year are reported and 19 out of 20 defendants walk free.
"There will never be proper female equality and appropriate dignity afforded to one-half of the population if it's possible to rape somebody and get away with it," said Baird, one of the highest-ranking women in the British government.
Thousands of victims each year once chose not to go to police because of shame, women's advocates say. Now, the advocates say, the bigger reason is that rape victims feel the system is stacked against them.
A 2005 report commissioned by the police found a "culture of skepticism" in the justice system when it came to rape cases, and recommended shifting the focus from seeking reasons not to believe the accuser to gathering evidence to support the charge.
Lisa Longstaff, spokeswoman for the London-based group Women Against Rape, said rape cases are "not a priority" for busy police and prosecutors and, as a result, "so few rapists get locked up that those who do feel unlucky rather than guilty."
Even some cases that do end in a guilty verdict stir outrage. Last year, a judge sentenced a 24-year-old man to two years in prison for having sex with a 10-year-old after concluding that the girl had "dressed provocatively."