Via Timmy, it seems that my scepticism was justified because the conviction rate is nowhere near that low. [Emphasis mine.]
For years the Home Office and the former Lord Chancellor’s Department have misled the media about rape statistics—and allowed the media to misinform the public.
Since 1999 the Home Office has known that its methods for calculating rape convictions are wrong. The real conviction rate is not the publicly broadcast 10 per cent but closer to 50 per cent (it varies slightly from year to year). In a Minority Report which I wrote for a Home Office committee in 2000 but which advisers refused to forward to ministers who were then actively considering new rape legislation, the HO were told that they were confusing ‘attrition’ rates with ‘conviction’ rates.
The attrition rate refers to the number of convictions secured compared with the number of that particular crime reported to the police (it must be noted that a crime that is ‘reported’ does not automatically imply that the crime actually took place). The conviction rate refers to the number of convictions secured against the number of persons brought to trial for that given offence.
Rape is the only crime judged by the attrition rate. All others—murder, assault, robbery, and so on—are assessed by their conviction rates. Why?
That's a very good question. Whiston believes that it was...
... a deliberate policy choice (beginning somewhere around 1988) to ensure that no matter what the cost, rape and sex crimes would climb remorselessly up the political agenda.
What the reason for this should be can only be speculated upon. However, the figures that Whiston produces show that—for both attrition and conviction rates—rape is comparable to other reported crimes. This is extremely worrying.
"What?!" I hear you cry. "This isn't worrying—it's extremely good news. It means that women aren't being unfairly victimised and that rapists aren't getting away with it."
But it is worrying. Because the government is using the excuse of low conviction rates to bring in some terrible affronts to our system of justice. It has been suggested, for instance, that rape trials be heard by "specialist jurors", i.e. those appointed by those with an axe to grind. It has also been posited that accused rapists should—in defiance of all other criminal cases heard under British law—be assumed guilty until they can prove their innocence.
These are not minor changes—these fundamentally undermine our entire rule of law. And the inevitable increased rates of conviction will, no doubt, be trumpeted by the government, and then the principles transferred to the trial conducts in other crimes.
The method is reminiscent of the weekly alcohol unit limits: one of the scientists involved in that report admitted that these limits were plucked out of the air, and yet they—and other lies—have been leveraged in order to justify ever more draconian legislation.
Whilst the drinking laws "just" make everyone's lives a little bit more expensive and considerably less fun, the proposals surrounding the conduct of trials—which, we now know, are based on equally spurious figures—will lead to more innocent people being jailed.
The central travesty of justice is the same though: the innocent are punished for the crimes of the guilty.