Katie DavisKatie Davis went to prison last year, sentenced to six months for perverting the course of justice after she was convicted of making a false allegation of rape. She said she was raped in an alley and denied going to his house. He said they had consensual sex at his house after they met in the street, both extremely drunk. Forensic evidence showed that she had in fact been at his house. The prosecution said she made it up because she was scared that she might be pregnant. She was 16. He was 24.

I’m not going to link to any of the media reports. Because they disgust me. Google it for yourself if you like, or take it from me that the headlines all say things like: “Teenager’s wicked rape lies” and “Jail for woman who cried rape” and “False rape claim woman jailed.” The reports take great delight in detailing exactly what the judge said about how wicked she was; in detailing her “consensual” sex encounter with the accused man, Frank Chisolm. One blogger even suggested that a false rape claim is itself “as bad as rape”. Actually, judging by the sentence, it may be worse. Chisolm spent 10 weeks on remand for having sex with a drunken 16-year-old girl who may or may not have consented. Davis got 6 months.

She was vilified, and the only real evidence to support her conviction seems to have been that her story wasn’t straight in a few places (few rape victims are likely to get their story straight – would you?) and the forensic evidence showed that she lied about going to his house. That lie does not mean the rape was a lie. That lie may only mean that a traumatised girl of 16 thought nobody would believe it was rape if she admitted that she went to his house. Her clinging to that lie may only mean that a young, vulnerable woman knew that her rapist would escape justice if she changed her story, just as surely as if her story was proved inaccurate in any detail.

My usual reaction to rape allegations is – yeah, he did it. In this case, what is so interesting is not so much whether or not he did it (I believe he did, for what that’s worth) but how the authorities and the media responded to Ms Davis’ lie. When rapists lie, they go free. When victims* lie, they risk a prosecution and media feeding frenzy. Come to that, when victims tell the truth, they risk a media feeding frenzy. For a victim, the only smart thing to do is to be silent. To be silent. For any woman, that is the only smart thing to do.

(* Make no mistake about it. Davis was a victim of Chisholm. She was 16 years old, drunk and she found herself in the house of an adult man, a stranger’s house, being pressured for sex – even if she did “consent” – what does that mean?)

So, anyway, I was looking for some statistics on false rape allegations. It was Grace fired me up to do it. There’s one hell of a lot of bullshit out there. Again, I refuse to provide links, but this stuff is not hard to find. If you really want proof that Wikipedia is funded and populated by gits, try their entry on false allegations of rape for size. And the bloggers! Oh the bloggers! Some guy even claimed that 98% of rape allegations are false – I didn’t read more, but he may have been confusing “fabricated” with “did not lead to a conviction because of our pitiful criminal justice system”. Another idiot claimed that the idea that a man is more likely to rape a woman than a woman is to make up a rape allegation is “preposterous”, given of course how noble men are and how ridiculous women are, making up such allegations “for sympathy” or even, bless them, “more urgent reasons.” Therefore, the rate of allegations which are false MUST be very high, particularly given that most actual victims don’t make allegations… Er, so the very fact that she made an allegation makes her less likely to be a real victim and more likely to be a evil lying cow? OK. So, er, how exactly do we get justice?

Right. Some actual government research.

Home Office research carried out in 2005: A gap or a chasm? I’ll cut to the chase since it’s late and this is a very long report. Short answer. Case analysis. Indepth study. 3%.

I may blog this in more detail another day, but until then, I leave you with some light reading. Here is the transcript of a debate that took place in the House of Lords on 29 November 2006, at about the same time as Katie Davis was being taken down to serve her sentence for perverting the course of justice. Gotta love the way they did in Lards Campbell-Savours and Thomas, and their ridiculous MRA statistics:

Lord Campbell-Savours: I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name… whether the consultation on rape includes the issue of false accusations.

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): My Lords, the consultation paper… does not include any proposals to deal with the issue of false accusations, which, research indicates, represent only a small fraction of the cases reported to the police….

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, but should not consultation include a review of statistical data on rape? Why should the rape conviction rate be calculated as a percentage of the total of reported rapes when we know from the Purdue University study in the United States of America that reported rape figures include a high level of false allegations? The Purdue study revealed that 41 per cent of allegations turned out to be false. That was on the basis of admissions by the complainants. Surely the 5.3 per cent conviction statistic in the United Kingdom is fiction and nonsense, and brings criminal justice statistics into disrepute.

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, my noble friend may be surprised to hear that I do not agree with that last remark. I agree that the fact that the level of convictions of reported rape is only 5.3 per cent is a matter of concern. I cannot think that he is suggesting that the balance of those reported cases are false allegations. I certainly do not accept that.

I have taken the opportunity to read the Purdue University report, to which my noble friend has referred before. It was produced 20 to 30 years ago in relation to a small mid-western United States town. I doubt that it has much relevance to here. I also note that, rather surprisingly, the report states that someone thinks that the level of false allegations is 100 per cent. Home Office research much more recently comes up with a much more reasonable figure of 9 per cent or, more likely, 3 per cent.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, with regard to the level of convictions, to which the noble and learned Lord referred, is he satisfied that the decision to prosecute is on the usual criteria of “more likely than not” that a conviction will be obtained? If more people are prosecuted than convicted, does it not follow that a lot of victims are men against whom false allegations have been made but who are named and shamed in the press nevertheless?

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the noble Lord draws attention to an important point. Rape is a very serious crime, which undoubtedly many women suffer. It is a difficult allegation to prove because often it is a question of one person’s word against another. That is why, in the consultation paper, we have been looking at whether there are aspects of the law—not the burden or standard of proof; no one is going to touch that—which may mean that those prosecutions can be brought more effectively. We hope to be able to announce the Government’s response to the consultation shortly, and I invite the noble Lord to see what we say then…

Baroness Gale: My Lords, does the Minister agree that any miscarriage of justice is a tragedy for all concerned? As a result of the consultation, will we see a better conviction rate, for example? Does he agree that most victims of rape are women, and that it is a terrible crime against women? Does he also agree that most women are very reluctant to come forward to report the rape? I hope that the consultation will give support, encouragement and advice to all victims of rape so that they can at least have some satisfaction, if that is the correct word, after the crime that has been committed against them.

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I agree with the very important points that my noble friend has made. We must strive hard to avoid any miscarriage of justice, but the fact remains, as she rightly said, that a large number of women are real victims of rape who are too afraid or reluctant to report it, and, as a result, prosecutions do not even take place. It is part of our responsibility to give them the confidence to report it so that it can be brought to the courts.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, the Minister referred to the Home Office figures for false allegations as being between 3 and 9 per cent. Is that not an extensive range, and is it not possible to get a little more certainty?

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I gave those figures for this reason. The report called A Gap or a Chasm? by Kelly, Lovett and Regan looked at the level of false allegations. The police were applying the figure of 9 per cent to their statistics. The researchers examined the cases in detail and thought that the more accurate figure was 3 per cent. That is their preferred figure, but I gave the range for the reason that I have just explained.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, my noble and learned friend has dismissed the Purdue University research figure of 41 per cent of cases in which the women complainants themselves have admitted that their allegations were false. That is 41 per cent, compared with 9 per cent, compared with 3 per cent. Is there not a huge difference between the statistics, and does that not cry out for some new work to be done to establish what the real statistic is?

Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, of course it shows that there is a wide variation in the statistics, as the Purdue University report itself indicated by quoting figures for false allegations ranging from 0.5 per cent to 100 per cent. But, as I have indicated, that was an old report. The Home Office recently commissioned a report, which reported in 2005, and I have indicated to the House the conclusions that it reached.