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2006 National Women's Conference
27 October 2005
Carried as Amended

Conference is extremely concerned at the apparent increase in the incidence of rape and the concomitant decrease in convictions of men accused of rape. In recent months there have been alarming accounts in various national newspapers of women who pursued prosecutions with the support of the police, only for their alleged attacker to be acquitted in court. Even more worrying are the number of cases where the man had faced comparable charges, which the Criminal Justice Act 2003 specifically allows to be taken into account, but where they were ruled inadmissible by the trial judge thus denying the jury all the facts and virtually ensuring the accused was acquitted.

Glamour magazine, supported by the Observer, recently ran a rape crisis petition and received 5,337 responses which seem to paint the same depressing picture. Evidence of comparable charges are ruled out by the trial judge; women are not believed; women are criticised for the clothes they wore at the time of the attack and/or for being under the influence of alcohol; the attitude of the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts; lack of information or follow-up and what seems like a general disregard for the women as rape victims, as witnesses and ultimately as people.

Conference also notes with alarm the recent findings of the Amnesty International Survey, which found that more than a quarter of those surveyed believed that a woman in revealing clothes was partly responsible if she was raped, and that more women than men thought that a woman who was drunk was totally responsible if she was raped.

In the same week as these disturbing findings were published, a judge at Swansea Crown Court instructed a jury to deliver a verdict of not guilty in a rape case, on the grounds that drunken consent is still consent, in contradiction of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 which clearly states that a person must have the freedom and capacity to give consent.

Conference believes this situation must be addressed as a matter of urgency and that women must be protected. Conference applauds Glamour magazine for initiating a campaign and endorses its four demands:

1)there should be governmental investment in proper training for rape prosecutors;

2)a nationwide 24 hour rape phone line to be set up;

3)every major United Kingdom city should have a sexual assault referral centre, a specialist centre providing legal, forensic, medical and counselling services to victims of sexual assault;

4)a government-backed national rape campaign encouraging victims to report rapes and showing rapists that they will be prosecuted and, if convicted, will face a heavy prison sentence.

Conference believes only such an approach will begin to eradicate the increase in the incidence of rape and the continued victimisation of women through this appalling act of violence.

Conference therefore instructs the National Women’s Committee to:

a)support the Glamour campaign and publicise their support through all appropriate channels;

b)continue to support Amnesty International’s campaign to end violence against women, and publicise this support through all appropriate channels;

c)liaise with the National Executive Council and Labour Link to seek to put pressure on the government to support the campaign and implement its demands;

d)urge women members to write to their MPs seeking their support;

e)report back to Women’s Conference 2007.