It’s a claim that’s made all over the world; that just a small percentage of “perpetrators” are convicted for sexual crimes, the assumption being that society undervalues rape victims.
But Professor Felicity Goodyear-Smith, a medical doctor and faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland, says repeating the statistic — in New Zealand, allegedly only 11% of “perpetrators” are punished for their crimes — assumes that all allegations are true and able to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which they are not. In a post on New Zealand’s The Daily Blog, Goodyear-Smith dismantles the statistics being used to push a sexual violence bill. The statistics, she says, are mainly based on a 2019 Justice Ministry “Attrition and Progression Report.” She wrote:
This report says that only 11% of “perpetrators” who are reported to the Police by “victims” are convicted, but is based on the erroneous assumption that all allegations are valid. Figures for these “victimisations” include all cases in which the police were unable to act (for example no perpetrator was identified or insufficient evidence to prosecute), but absurdly also those which the police deemed actually “not to be a crime” and those where the accuser recanted. Even verdicts of not guilty are included, where juries had actually found police allegations to be unsubstantiated. The report therefore flies in the face of the presumption of innocence (a basic tenet of justice), not to mention good science.
Goodyear-Smith also notes what activists in the country claim is a “low” conviction rate for sex-related cases that go to trial. What the professor found, however, is that the conviction rate is in line with other violent crimes, “such as abductions and kidnapping (35%), aggravated robbery (41%), attempted murder (29%) and at the top, murder (56%).”
“In no other crime is undermining defendants’ trial rights proposed to increase conviction rates,” she added.
Similar arguments are made in America, but only when discussing sex-based crimes. Here too, due process rights are only demonized for those accused of sexual crimes, with the assumption and demand from activists that no one lies about this type of crime, even though facts show otherwise.
“[C]omplainants may be telling the truth, but they may also be lying or mistaken, with no way for us to tell the difference. They should neither be initially believed nor disbelieved – until a jury deliberates at trial – a courtesy we should also extend to the accused. Ideological belief should not replace forensic examination of evidence. Investigators must approach each allegation from a neutral stance of ‘Here is an allegation – what evidence is there to confirm or refute?’ We can never determine how many allegations are false, and often there is reasonable doubt, meaning it is of course unsafe to convict, and some guilty may go free – being the price we pay for a fair and just system,” Goodyear-Smith wrote.
As any reasonable person could see, removing due process rights will harm the most vulnerable in our society. In America, that is minority populations. In New Zealand, it is Māori.
Keep this in mind whenever you see members of Congress or senators introducing bills while citing statistics claiming few people are convicted of sex-based crimes.
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