"The Burning" by Georgina " />
by Grainne Cunningham in The Irish Independent
OVER 90pc of sexual crimes reported to the gardai fail to result in a conviction, a legal expert has said. Victim-based research indicates that a massive number of cases "fall out" of the legal system between the time of the offence and a final conviction, Dr Clare Leon told a weekend seminar.
Dr Leon, a criminologist attached to the Garda Research Unit, said the low level of convictions raised questions in relation to the investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes.
She was critical of the lack of publicly available data on levels of fall-out or attrition of sexual crimes and the reasons why this was happening.
Research that takes the recorded crime figures as a base suggests attrition levels nearer to 80pc, a similar rate to that in the UK.
Dr Leon, who was addressing a conference of the Irish Women Lawyers' Association in Dublin on Saturday, said there were many reasons why a crime does not proceed to trial.
The victim may not report the offence, or having done so, may withdraw the complaint; the offender may never be caught or the Director of Public Prosecutions may decide there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.
Dr Leon also identified difficulties in assessing the level of sexual crime because victims may be reluctant to report such offences and highlighted differences in sexual crime rates cited by various organisations, from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre to the gardai.
Contrary to widespread belief that victims are typically women attacked by strangers, one-third of all sexual assault victims are male, Dr Leon said.
Most Irish male victims are abused by someone in a position of trust, usually another male who is known to the victim.
"Most people assume that sexual assault victims are young women who are attacked by a stranger, but this simply isn't the case," Dr Leon said.
And an estimated 79pc of male victims, who delay reporting the abuse because of the stigma, drop their complaint before it goes to trial.
Garda statistics show there has been a consistent increase in the number of male complainants, from 19pc in 1994 to 29pc in 2001. From 2000 to 2001 alone, the percentage of sexual assaults against men rose from 26pc to 36pc.
Other data, recorded in the SAVI (sexual abuse and violence in Ireland) report, suggested an even greater number of victims were male - 39pc of the 1039 interviewees who disclosed abuse were men.Posted by Colm at April 07, 2003 09:21 AM